Swami Abhedananda

Produced by Dave Maddock, Charles Franks and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.





_Author of "India and her People", "Self-Knowledge", "How to be a
Yogi", "Divine Heritage of Man", etc._








The visible phenomena of the universe are bound by the universal law
of cause and effect. The effect is visible or perceptible, while the
cause is invisible or imperceptible. The falling of an apple from a
tree is the effect of a certain invisible force called gravitation.
Although the force cannot be perceived by the senses, its expression
is visible. All perceptible phenomena are but the various expressions
of different forces which act as invisible agents upon the subtle and
imperceptible forms of matter. These invisible agents or forces
together with the imperceptible particles of matter make up the subtle
states of the phenomenal universe. When a subtle force becomes
objectified, it appears as a gross object. Therefore, we can say,
that every gross form is an expression of some subtle force acting
upon the subtle particles of matter. The minute particles of hydrogen
and oxygen when combined by chemical force, appear in the gross form
of water. Water can never be separated from hydrogen and oxygen, which
are its subtle component parts. Its existence depends upon that of its
component parts, or in other words, upon its subtle form. If the
subtle state changes, the gross manifestation will also change. The
peculiarity in the gross form of a plant depends upon the peculiar
nature of its subtle form, the seed. The peculiar nature of the gross
forms in the animal kingdom depends upon the subtle forms which
manifest variously in each of the intermediate stages between the
microscopic unit of living matter and the highest man. The gross human
body is closely related to its subtle body. Not only this, but every
movement or change in the physical form is caused by the activity and
change of the subtle body. If the subtle body be affected or changed a
little, the gross body will also be affected similarly. The material
body being the expression of the subtle body, its birth, growth, decay
and death depend upon the changes of the subtle body. As long as the
subtle body remains, it will continue to express itself in a
corresponding gross form.

Now let us understand clearly what we mean by a subtle body. It is
nothing but a minute germ of a living substance. It contains the
invisible particles of matter which are held together by vital force,
and it also possesses mind or thought-force in a potential state, just
as the seed of a plant contains in it the life force and the power of
growth. According to Vedanta, the subtle body consists of
_Antahkaranam_, that is, the internal organ or the mind substance
with its various modifications, mind, intellect, egoism, memory, the
five instruments of perception: the powers of seeing, hearing,
smelling, tasting and touching; the five instruments of action, such
as the powers of seizing, moving, speaking, evacuating, and
generating, and the five _Pranas. Prana_ is a Sanskrit word which
means vital energy or the life-sustaining power in us. Although
_Prana_ is one, it takes five different names on account of the
five different functions it performs. This word _Prana_ includes
the five manifestations of the vital force: First, that power which
moves the lungs and draws the atmospheric air from outside into the
system. This is also called _Prana_. Second, that power which
throws out of the system such things as are not wanted. It is called
in Sanskrit _Apana_. Third, it takes the name of _Samana_,
as performing digestive functions and carrying the extract of food to
every part of the body. It is called _Udana_ when it is the cause
of bringing down food from the mouth through the alimentary canal to
the stomach, and also when it is the cause of the power of speech. The
fifth power of _Prana_ is that which works in every part of the
nervous system from head to foot, through every canal, which keeps the
shape of the body, preserves it from putrefaction, and gives health
and life to every cell and organ. These are the various manifestations
of the vital force or _Prana_. These subtle powers together with
the non-composite elements of the gross body, or the ethereal
particles of subtle matter, and also with the potentialities of all
the impressions, ideas and tendencies which each individual gathers in
one life, make up his subtle body. As a resultant of all the
different actions of mind and body which an individual performs in his
present life, will be the tendencies and desires in his future life;
nothing will be lost.

Every action of body or mind which we do, every thought which we
think, becomes fine, and is stored up in the form of a _Samskara_
or impression in our minds. It remains latent for some time, and then
it rises up in the form of a mental wave and produces new
desires. These desires are called in Vedanta, _Vasanas_. Vasanas
or strong desires are the manufacturers of new bodies. If Vasana or
longing for worldly pleasures and objects remains in anybody, even
after hundreds of births, that person will be born again. Nothing can
prevent the course of strong desires. Desires must be fulfilled sooner
or later.

Every voluntary or involuntary action of the body, sense or mind must
correspond to the dormant impressions stored up in the subtle
body. Although growth, the process of nourishment and all the changes
of the gross physical body take place according to the necessarily
acting causes, yet the whole series of actions, and consequently every
individual act, the condition of the body which accomplishes it, nay,
the whole process in and through which the body exists, are nothing
but the outward expressions of the latent impressions stored up in the
subtle body. Upon these rests the perfect suitableness of the animal
or human body to the animal or human nature of one's impressions. The
organs of the senses must therefore completely correspond to the
principal desires which are the strongest and most ready to
manifest. They are the visible expressions of these desires. If there
be no hunger or desire to eat, teeth, throat and bowels will be of no
use. If there be no desire for grasping and moving, hands and legs
will be useless. Similarly it can be shown that the desire for seeing,
hearing, etc., has produced the eye, ear, etc. If I have no desire to
use my hand, and if I do not use it at all, within a few months it
will wither away and die. In India there are some religious fanatics
who hold up their arms and do not use them at all; after a few months
their arms wither and become stiff and dead. A person who lies on his
back for six months loses the power of walking. There are many such
instances which prove the injurious effects of the disuse of our limbs
and organs.

As the human form, generally, corresponds to the human will,
generally, so the individual bodily structure corresponds to the
character, desires, will and thought of the individual. Therefore the
outer nature is nothing but the expression of the inner nature. This
inner nature of each individual is what re-incarnates or expresses
itself successively in various forms, one after another. When a man
dies the individual ego or _Jiva_ (as it is called in Sanskrit),
which means the germ of life or the living soul of man, is not
destroyed, but it continues to exist in an invisible form. It remains
like a permanent thread stringing together the separate lives by the
law of cause and effect. The subtle body is like a water-globule which
sprang in the beginningless past from the eternal ocean of Reality;
and it contains the reflection of the unchangeable light of
Intelligence. As a water-globule remains sometimes in an invisible
vapory state in a cloud, then in rain or snow or ice, and again as
steam or in mud, but is never destroyed, so the subtle body sometimes
remains unmanifested and sometimes expresses itself in gross forms of
animal or human beings, according to the desires and tendencies that
are ready to manifest. It may go to heaven, that is, to some other
planet, or it may be born again on this earth. It depends on the
nature and strength of one's life-long tendency and bent of mind. This
idea is clearly expressed in Vedanta. "The thought, will or desire
which is extremely strong during lifetime, will become predominant at
the time of death and will mould the inner nature of the dying
person. The newly moulded inner nature will express in a new form."
(Bhagavad Gita.) The thought, will or desire which moulds the inner
nature has the power of selecting or attracting such conditions or
environments as will help it in its way of manifestation. This process
corresponds in some respects to the law of "natural selection."

We shall be better able to understand that process by studying how the
seeds of different trees select from the common environments different
materials, and absorb and assimilate different quantities of
elements. Suppose two seeds, one of an oak and the other of a
chestnut, are planted in a pot. The power of growth in both the seeds
is of the same nature. The environments, earth, water, heat and light
are the same. But still there is some peculiarity in each of the
seeds, which will absorb from the common environments different
quantities of elements and other properties which are fit to help the
growth of the peculiar nature and form of the fruit, flower, leaves of
each tree. Suppose the chestnut is a horse-chestnut. If, under
different conditions, the peculiar nature of the horse-chestnut
changes into that of a sweet chestnut, then, along with the changes in
the seed, the whole nature of the tree, leaves, fruits will also be
changed. It will no more attract, absorb or assimilate those
substances and qualities of the environments which it did when it was
a horse-chestnut. Similarly, through the law of "natural selection"
the newly moulded thought-body of the dying person will choose and
attract such parts from the common environments as are helpful to its
proper expression or manifestation. Parents are nothing but the
principal parts of the environment of the re-incarnating
individual. The newly moulded inner nature or subtle body of the
individual will by the law of "natural selection" involuntarily
choose, or be unconsciously drawn to, as it were, its suitable parents
and will be born of them. As, for instance, if I have a strong desire
to become an artist, and if after a life-long struggle I do not
succeed in being the greatest, after the death of the body I will be
born of such parents and with such environments as will help me to
become the best artist.

The whole process is expressed in Eastern philosophy by the doctrine
of the Reincarnation of the individual soul. Although this doctrine
is commonly rejected in the West, it is unreservedly accepted by the
vast majority of mankind of the present day, as it was in past
centuries. The scientific explanation of this theory we find nowhere
except in the writings of the Hindus; still we know that from very
ancient times it was believed by the philosophers, sages and prophets
of different countries. The ancient civilization of Egypt was built
upon a crude form of the doctrine of Reincarnation. Herodotus says:
"The Egyptians propounded the theory that the human soul is
imperishable, and that where the body of any one dies it enters into
some other creature that may be ready to receive it." Pythagoras and
his disciples spread it through Greece and Italy. Pythagoras says:
"All has soul; all is soul wandering in the organic world, and obeying
eternal will or law."

In Dryden's Ovid we read:--

"Death has no power the immortal soul to slay,
That, when its present body turns to clay,
Seeks a fresh home, and with unlessened might
Inspires another frame with life and light."

It was the keynote of Plato's philosophy. Plato says: "Soul is older
than body. Souls are continually born over again into this life." The
idea of Reincarnation was spread widely in Greece and Italy by
Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Virgil and Ovid. It was known to the
Neo-Platonists, Plotinus and Proclus. Plotinus says: "The soul leaving
the body becomes that power which it has most developed. Let us fly
then from here below and rise to the intellectual world, that we may
not fall into a purely sensible life by allowing ourselves to follow
sensible images...." It was the fundamental principle of the religion
of the Persian Magi. Alexander the Great accepted this idea after
coming in contact with the Hindu philosophers. Julius Caesar found
that the Gauls had some belief regarding the pre-existence of the
human soul. The Druids of old Gaul believed that the souls of men
transmigrate into those bodies whose habits and characters they most
resemble. Celts and Britons were impressed with this idea. It was a
favorite theme of the Arab philosophers and many Mahomedan Sufis. The
Jews adopted it after the Babylonian captivity. Philo of Alexandria,
who was a contemporary of Christ, preached amongst the Hebrews the
Platonic idea of the pre-existence and rebirth of human souls. Philo
says: "The company of disembodied souls is distributed in various
orders. The law of some of them is to enter mortal bodies, and after
certain prescribed periods be again set free." John the Baptist was
according to the Jews a second Elijah; Jesus was believed by many to
be the re-appearance of some other prophet. (See Matt, xvi, 14, also
xvii, 12.) Solomon says in his Book of Wisdom: "I was a child of good
nature and a good soul came to me, or rather because I was good I came
into an undefiled body."

The Talmud and Cabala teach the same thing. In the Talmud it is said
that Abel's soul passed into the body of Seth, and then into that of
Moses. Along with the spread of the Cabala this doctrine (which was
known as Transmigration and Metempsychosis) "began to take root in
Judaism and then it gained believers even among men who were little
inclined towards Mysticism. Juda ben Asher (Asheri) for instance,
discussing this doctrine in a letter to his father endeavored to place
it upon a philosophical basis." (Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. XII,
p. 232.) We also read, "The Cabalists eagerly adopted the doctrine on
account of the vast field it offered to mystic speculations. Moreover
it was almost a necessary corollary of their psychological system. The
absolute condition of the soul is, according to them, its return,
after developing all those perfections, the germs of which are
eternally implanted in it, to the Infinite Source from which it
emanated. Another term of life must therefore be vouchsafed to those
souls which have not fulfilled their destiny here below, and have not
been sufficiently purified for the state of union with the Primordial
Cause. Hence if the soul, on its first assumption of a human body and
sojourn on earth, fails to acquire that experience for which it
descended from heaven and becomes contaminated by that which is
polluting, it must reinhabit a body till it is able to ascend in a
purified state through repeated trials." This is the theory of the
Zohar, which says: "All souls are subject to transmigration; and men
do not know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He! They do not know
that they are brought before the tribunal both before they enter into
this world and after they leave it; they are ignorant of the many
transmigrations and secret probations which they have to undergo, and
of the number of souls and spirits which enter into this world and
which do not return to the palace of the Heavenly King. Men do not
know how the souls revolve like a stone which is thrown from a
sling. But the time is at hand when these mysteries will be
disclosed." (Zohar, II, 99 _b_.)

Like many of the Church Fathers the Cabalists used as their main
argument in favor of the doctrine of metempsychosis the justice of
God. But for the belief in metempsychosis, they maintained, the
question why God often permits the wicked to lead a happy life while
many righteous are miserable would be unanswerable. Then too the
infliction of pain upon children would be an act of cruelty unless it
is imposed in punishment of sin committed by the soul in a previous
state. Isaac Abravanel sees in the commandment of the Levirate a proof
of the doctrine of metempsychosis for which he gives the following
reasons: (1) God in His mercy willed that another trial should be
given to the soul, which having yielded to the sanguine temperament of
the body had committed a capital sin, such as murder, adultery, etc.;
(2) it is only just that when a man dies young a chance should be
given to his soul to execute in another body the good deeds which it
had not time to perform in the first body; (3) the soul of the wicked
sometimes passes into another body in order to receive its deserved
punishment here below instead of in the other world where it would be
much more severe. (Commentary on Deuteronomy, XXV, 5.)

Christianity is not exempt from this idea. Origen and other Church
Fathers believed in it. Origen says: "For God, justly disposing of his
creatures according to their desert, united the diversities of minds
in one congruous world, that he might, as it were, adorn his mansion
(in which ought to be not only vases of gold and silver, but of wood
also and clay, and some to honor and some to dishonor) with these
diverse vases, minds or souls. To these causes the world owes its
diversity, while Divine Providence disposes each according to his
tendency, mind and disposition." He also says: "I think this is a
question how it happens that the human mind is influenced now by the
good, now by the evil. The causes of this I suspect to be more ancient
than this corporeal birth." The idea of Reincarnation spread so fast
amongst the early Christians that Justinian was obliged to suppress it
by passing a law in the Council of Constantinople in 538 A.D. The law
was this: "Whoever shall support the mythical presentation of the
pre-existence of the soul, and the consequently wonderful opinion of
its return, let him be Anathema." The Gnostics and Manichaeans
propagated the tenets of Reincarnation amongst the mediaeval sects
such as the Bogomiles and Paulicians. Some of the followers of this
so-called erroneous belief were cruelly persecuted in 385 A.D.

In the seventeenth century some of the Cambridge Platonists, as
Dr. Henry More and others, accepted the idea of rebirth. Most of the
German philosophers of the middle ages and of recent days have
advocated and upheld this doctrine. Many quotations can be given from
the writings of great thinkers, like Kant, Scotus, Schelling, Fichte,
Leibnitz, Schopenhauer, Giardano Bruno, Goethe, Lessing, Herder and a
host of others. The great skeptic Hume says in his posthumous essay on
"The Immortality of the Soul," "The metempsychosis is therefore the
only system of this kind that philosophy can hearken to." Scientists
like Flammarion and Huxley have supported this doctrine of
Reincarnation. Professor Huxley says: "None but hasty thinkers will
reject it on the ground of inherent absurdity. Like the doctrine of
evolution itself, that of transmigration has its roots in the world of
reality." ("Evolution and Ethics," p. 61.)

Some of the theological leaders have preached it. The eminent German
theologian Dr. Julius Muller supports this theory in his work on "The
Christian Doctrine of Sin." Prominent theologians, such as Dr. Dorner,
Ernesti, Ruckert, Edward Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, Phillips Brooks,
preached many a time touching the question of the pre-existence and
rebirth of the individual soul. Swedenborg and Emerson maintained
it. Emerson says in his essay on Experience, "We wake and find
ourselves on a stair. There are stairs below us which we seem to have
ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and
out of sight."

Almost all of the poets, ancient or modern, profess it. William
Wordsworth says in "Intimations of Immortality:"--

"The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar."

Tennyson writes in the "Two Voices;"

"Or, if through lower lives I came--
Tho' all experience past became,
Consolidate in mind and frame--
I might forget my weaker lot;
For is not our first year forgot?
The haunts of memory echo not."

Walt Whitman says in "Leaves of Grass:"

"As to you, Life, I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths,
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before."

Similar passages can be quoted from almost all the poets of different
countries. Even amongst the aboriginal tribes of Africa, Asia, North
and South America, traces of this belief in the rebirth of souls is to
be found. Nearly three-fourths of the population of Asia believe in
the doctrine of Reincarnation, and through it they find a satisfactory
explanation of the problem of life. There is no religion which denies
the continuity of the individual soul after death.

Those who do not believe in Reincarnation try to explain the world of
inequalities and diversities either by the one-birth theory or by the
theory of hereditary transmission. Neither of these theories, however,
is sufficient to explain the inequalities that we meet with in our
everyday life. Those who believe in the one-birth theory, that we have
come here for the first and last time, do not understand that the
acquirement of wisdom and experience is the purpose of human life; nor
can they explain why children who die young should come into existence
and pass away without getting the opportunity to learn anything or
what purpose is served by their coming thus for a few days, remaining
in utter ignorance and then passing away without gaining anything
whatever. The Christian dogma, based on the one-birth theory, tells us
that the child which dies soon after its birth is sure to be saved and
will enjoy eternal life and everlasting happiness in heaven. The
Christians who really believe in this dogma ought to pray to their
heavenly Father for the death of their children immediately after
their birth and ought to thank the merciful Father when the grave
closes over their little forms. Thus the one-birth theory of Christian
theology does not remove any difficulty.

Two great religions, Judaism with its two offspring--Christianity and
Mahomedanism--and Zoroastrianism, still uphold the one-birth theory.

The followers of these, shutting their eyes to the absurdity and
unreasonableness of such a theory, believe that human souls are
created out of nothing at the time of the birth of their bodies and
that they continue to exist throughout eternity either to suffer or to
enjoy because of the deeds performed during the short period of their
earthly existence. Here the question arises why should a man be held
responsible throughout eternity for the works which he was forced or
predestined to perform by the will of the Lord of the universe? The
theory of predestination and grace, instead of explaining the
difficulty, makes God partial and unjust. If the omnipotent personal
God created human souls out of nothing, could He not make all souls
equally good and happy? Why does He make one to enjoy all the
blessings of life and another to suffer all miseries throughout
eternity? Why is one born with good tendencies and another with evil
ones? Why is one man virtuous throughout his life and another bestial?
Why is one born intelligent and another idiotic? If God out of His own
will made all these inequalities, or, in other words, if God created
one man to suffer and another to enjoy, then how partial and unjust
must He be! He must be worse than a tyrant. How can we worship Him,
how call Him just and merciful?

Some people try to save God from this charge of partiality and
injustice by saying that all good things of this universe are the work
of God, and all evil things are the work of a demon or Satan. God
created everything good, but it was Satan who brought evil into this
world and made everything bad. Now let us see how far such a statement
is logically correct. Good and evil are two relative terms; the
existence of one depends upon that of the other. Good cannot exist
without evil, and evil cannot exist without being related to
good. When God created what we call good, He must have created evil at
the same time, otherwise He could not create good alone. If the
creator of evil, call him by whatever name you like, had brought evil
into this world, he must have created it simultaneously with God;
otherwise it would have been impossible for God to create good, which
can exist only as related to evil. As such they will have to admit
that the Creators of good and evil sat together at the same time to
create this world, which is a mixture of good and evil. Consequently,
both of them are equally powerful, and limited by each other.
Therefore neither of them is infinite in powers or omnipotent. So we
cannot say that the Almighty God of the universe created good alone
and not the evil.

Another argument which the Vedantists advance in support of the theory
of Reincarnation is that "Nothing is destroyed in the universe."
Destruction in the sense of the annihilation of a thing is unknown to
the Vedantic philosophers, just as it is unknown to the modern
scientists. They say "non-existence can never become existence and
existence can never become non-existence;" or, in other words, that
which did not exist can never exist, and conversely that which exists
in any form can never become non-existent. This is the law of
nature. As such, the impressions or ideas which we now have, together
with the powers which we possess, will not be destroyed but will
remain with us in some form or other. Our bodies may change, but the
powers, Karma, Samskaras or impressions and the materials which
manufactured our bodies must remain in us in an unmanifested
form. They will never be destroyed. Again science tells us that that
which remains in an unmanifested or potential state must at some time
or other be manifested in a kinetic or actual form. Therefore we shall
get other bodies, sooner or later. It is for this reason said in the
"Bhagavad Gita": "Birth must be followed by death and death must be
followed by birth." Such a continuously recurring series of births and
deaths each germ of life must go through. Another consideration is
that the beginning, ending and continuing are conceptions of the human
mind; their significance depends entirely upon our conception of
time. But we all know that time has no absolute existence. It is
merely a form of our knowledge of our own existence in relation to
that of nature. The conception of time vanishes at the sleep of
death, just as it does every night when we are in sound sleep. Death
resembles the state of our sound sleep. The soul wakes up from the
sleep of death just in the same manner as the insects awake in spring
after sleeping the long and rigid winter-sleep, as a chrysalis in the
bed of a cocoon spun by itself in autumn. Nature teaches us the great
lesson of rebirth and the similarity between sleep and death by the
rejuvenation of the chrysalis in the spring. After death the soul
wakes up and puts on or manufactures the garment of a new body, just
in the same manner as we put on new clothes after throwing away the
old and worn-out ones. Thus the soul continues to manifest itself over
and over again either on the human or any other plane of existence,
being bound by the Law of Karma or of Cause and Sequence.

"Death, so called, is but older matter dressed
In some new form. And in a varied vest,
From tenement to tenement though tossed,
The soul is still the same, the figure only lost."

_Poem on Pythagoras, Dryden's Ovid._

Here it may be asked, if we existed before our birth why do we not
remember? This is one of the strongest objections often raised against
the belief in pre-existence. Some people deny the existence of the
soul in the past simply because they cannot remember the events of
their past. Others, again, who hold memory as the standard of
existence, say, if our memory of the present ceases to exist at the
time of death, with it we shall also cease to be; we cannot be
immortal; because they hold that memory is the standard of life, and
if we do not remember then we are not the same beings.

Vedanta answers these questions by saying that it is possible for us
to remember our previous existences. Those who have read "Raja Yoga"
will recall that in the 18th aphorism of the third chapter it is said:
"By perceiving the Samskaras one acquires the knowledge of past
lives." Here the Samskaras mean the impressions of the past experience
which lie dormant in our subliminal self, and are never lost. Memory
is nothing but the awakening and rising of latent impressions above
the threshold of consciousness. A Raja Yogi, through powerful
concentration upon these dormant impressions of the subconscious mind,
can remember all the events of his past lives. There have been many
instances in India of Yogis who could know not only their own past
lives but correctly tell those of others. It is said that Buddha
remembered five hundred of his previous births.

Our subliminal self, or the subconscious mind, is the storehouse of
all the impressions that we gather through our experiences during our
lifetime. They are stored up, pigeon-holed there, in the _Chitta, as
it is called in Vedanta. "Chitta" means the same subconscious mind or
subliminal self which is the storehouse of all impressions and
experiences. And these impressions remain latent until favorable
conditions rouse them and bring them out on the plane of
consciousness. Here let us take an illustration: In a dark room
pictures are thrown on a screen by lantern-slides. The room is
absolutely dark. We are looking at the pictures. Suppose we open a
window and allow the rays of the midday sun to fall upon the
screen. Would we be able to see those pictures? No. Why? Because the
more powerful flood of light will subdue the light of the lantern and
the pictures. But although they are invisible to our eyes we cannot
deny their existence on the screen. Similarly, the pictures of the
events of our previous lives upon the screen of the subliminal self
may be invisible to us at present, but they exist there. Why are they
invisible to us now? Because the more powerful light of
sense-consciousness has subdued them. If we close the windows and
doors of our senses from outside contact and darken the inner chamber
of our self, then by focusing the light of consciousness and
concentrating the mental rays we shall be able to know and remember
our past lives, and all the events and experiences thereof. Those who
wish therefore to develop their memory and remember their past should
practice Raja Yoga and learn the method of acquiring the power of
concentration by shutting the doors and windows of their senses. And
that power of concentration must be helped by the power of
self-control. That is, by controlling the doors and windows of our own

These dormant impressions, whether we remember them or not, are the
chief factors in moulding our individual characters with which we are
born, and they are the causes of the inequalities and diversities
which we find around us. When we study the characters and powers of
geniuses and prodigies we cannot deny the pre-existence of the
soul. Whatever the soul has mastered in a previous life manifests in
the present. The memory of particular events is not so important. If
we possess the wisdom and knowledge which we gathered in our previous
lives, then it matters very little whether or not we remember the
particular events, or the struggles which we went through in order to
gain that knowledge. Those particular things may not come to us in our
memory, but we have not lost the wisdom. Now, study your own present
life and you will see that in this life you have gained some
experience. The particular events and the struggles which you went
through are passing out of your memory, but the experience, the
knowledge which you have gained through that experience, has moulded
your character, has shaped you in a different manner. You will not
have to go through those different events again to remember; how you
acquired that experience is not necessary; the wisdom gained is quite

Then, again, we find among ourselves persons who are born with some
wonderful powers. Take, for instance, the power of self-control. One
is born with the power of self-control highly developed, and that
self-control may not be acquired by another after years of hard
struggle. Why is there this difference? Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna was
born with God-consciousness, and he went into the highest state of
Samadhi when he was four years old; but this state is very difficult
for other Yogis to acquire. There was a Yogi who came to see
Ramakrishna. He was an old man and possessed wonderful powers, and he
said: "I have struggled for forty years to acquire that state which is
natural with you." There are many such instances which show that
pre-existence is a fact, and that these latent or dormant impressions
of previous lives are the chief factors in moulding the individual
character without depending upon the memory of the past. Because we
cannot remember our past, because of the loss of memory of the
particular events, the soul's progress is not arrested. The soul will
continue to progress further and further, even though the memory may
be weak.

Each individual soul possesses this storehouse of previous experiences
in the background, in the subconscious mind. Take the instance of two
lovers. What is love? It is the attraction between two souls. This
love does not die with the death of the body. True love survives death
and continues to grow, to become stronger and stronger. Eventually it
brings the two souls together and makes them one. The theory of
pre-existence alone can explain why two souls at first sight know each
other and become attached to each other by the tie of friendship. This
mutual love will continue to grow and will become stronger, and in the
end will bring these lovers together, no matter where they
go. Therefore, Vedanta does not say that the death of the body will
end the attraction or the attachment of two souls; but as the souls
are immortal so their relation will continue forever.

The Yogis know how to develop memory and how to read past lives. They
say, time and space exist in relation to our present mental condition;
if we can rise above this plane, our higher mind sees the past and
future just as we see things before our eyes. Those who wish to
satisfy the idle curiosity of their minds may spend their energy by
trying to recollect their past lives. But I think it will be much more
helpful to us if we devote our time and energy in moulding our future
and in trying to be better than we are now, because the recollection
of our former condition would only force us to make a bad use of the
present. How unhappy he must be who knows that the wicked deeds of his
past life will surely react on him and will bring distress, misery,
unhappiness or suffering within a few days or a few months. Such a man
would be so restless and unhappy that he would not be able to do any
work properly; he would constantly think in what form misery would
appear to him. He would not be able to eat or even sleep. He would be
most miserable. Therefore we ought to regard it as a great blessing
that we do not recollect our past lives and past deeds. Vedanta says,
do not waste your valuable time in thinking of your past lives, do not
look backward during the tiresome journey through the different stages
of evolution, always look forward and try first to attain to the
highest point of spiritual development; then if you want to know your
past lives you will recollect them all. Nothing will remain unknown to
you, the Knower of the universe. When the all-knowing Divine Self will
manifest through you, time and space will vanish and past and future
will be changed into the eternal present. Then you will say as Sri
Krishna said to Arjuna, in the "Bhagavad Gita:" "Both you and I have
passed through many lives; you do not recollect any, but I know them
all." (Ch. iv., 5.)


Those who accept the theory of heredity deny the existence of the
human soul as an entity separable from the gross physical
organism. Consequently they do not discuss the question whether the
individual soul existed in the past or will continue to exist after
the death of the body. This kind of question does not disturb their
minds. They generally maintain that the individual soul is inseparable
from the body or the brain or nervous system; consequently what we
call soul or the conscious entity or the thinker is produced along
with the birth of the organism or brain, lasts as long as the body
lasts and dies when the organism is dissolved into its elements. But
those, on the other hand, who accept the theory of Reincarnation admit
the existence of soul as a conscious entity which is independent of
the physical organism, that it continues to live after death and that
it existed before the birth of the body. The theory of heredity has
always been supported by the materialistic scientists, atheists and
agnostics of all ages and also by those who believe in the special
creation of the first man and woman at a certain definite time and
that their qualities, character, life and soul have been transmitted
to all humanity through successive generations. The commonly accepted
meaning of the theory of heredity is that all the well-marked
peculiarities, both physical and mental, in the parents are handed on
to the children; or, in other words, heredity is that property of an
organism by which its peculiar nature is transmitted to its

In the whole history of humanity there has never been a time when this
question of heredity has been discussed so minutely and in so many
different ways as it has been in the present century. Although this
theory was known in the East by the ancient Vedanta philosophers, by
the Buddhists of the pre-Christian era and by the Greek philosophers
in the West, still it has received a new impetus and has grown with
new strength since the introduction of the Darwinian theory of the
evolution of species. Along with the latest discoveries in
physiology, biology, embryology and other branches of modern science,
the popular simple meaning of heredity--that the offspring not only
resemble their parents among animals as well as among men, but inherit
all the individual peculiarities, life and character of their
parents--has taken the shape of the most complicated and difficult
problem which it is almost impossible to solve. Our minds are no
longer satisfied with Haeckel's definition that heredity is simply an
overgrowth of the individual, a simple continuity of growth; but we
want to know the particular method by which hereditary transmission
takes place. We ask, how can a single cell reproduce the whole body
of the offspring, its mind, character and all the peculiarities of an
organism? Out of the myriads of cells of which a body is composed,
what kind of cell is that which possesses the power of reproducing the
peculiarities, both mental and physical, which are to be found in the
form of the new-born babe? This is the most puzzling of all the
problems which the scientific mind has ever encountered. The
fundamental question connected with the theory of heredity is: How can
a single cell of the body contain within itself all the hereditary
tendencies of the hypothesis of the continuity of the germ-plasm gives
an identical starting-point to each successive generation, and thus
explains how it is that an identical product arises from all of
them. In other words, the hypothesis explains heredity as part of the
underlying problems of assimilation and of the causes which act
directly during ontogeny. (Vol. I, p. 170.)

According to Weismann, all the peculiarities which we find in an
organism are not inherited by the organism from that of the parents,
but he says: "Nothing can arise in an organism unless the
predisposition to it is pre-existent, for every acquired character is
simply the reaction of the organism upon a certain stimulus." (Vol. I,
p. 172.) Therefore the germ-cells do not inherit all the peculiarities
of the parents, but possess the predisposition or a potentiality of
the tendencies which gradually develop into individual characters.

We will be able to understand his theory better from the following
quotations, which give his own words. He says: "I have called this
substance 'germ-plasm,' and have assumed that it possesses a highly
complex structure, conferring upon it the power of developing into a
complex organism." ("Heredity," Vol. I, p. 170.) Again he says:
"There is, therefore, continuity of the germ-plasm from one generation
to another. One might represent the germ-plasm by the metaphor of a
long, creeping rootstock from which plants arise at intervals, these
latter representing the individuals of successive generations. Hence
it follows that the transmission of acquired characters is an
impossibility, for if the germ-plasm is not formed anew in each
individual, but is derived from that which preceded it, its structure,
and, above all, its molecular constitution, cannot depend upon the
individual in which it happens to occur, but such an individual only
forms, as it were, the nutritive soil at the expense of which the
germ-plasm grows, while the latter possessed its characteristic
structure from the beginning, viz., before the commencement of growth.
But the tendencies of heredity, of which the germ-plasm is the bearer,
depend upon this very molecular structure, and hence only those
characters can be transmitted through successive generations which
have been previously inherited, viz., those characters which were
potentially contained in the structure of the germ-plasm. It also
follows that those other characters which have been acquired by the
influence of special external conditions, during the lifetime of the
parent, cannot be transmitted at all." (Vol. I, p. 273.) In
conclusion, Weismann writes: "But at all events we have gained this
much, that the only facts which appear to directly prove a
transmission of acquired characters have been refuted, and that the
only firm foundation on which this hypothesis has been hitherto based
has been destroyed."(Vol. I, p. 461.)

Thus we see how far the theory of heredity has been pushed by the
great scientific investigators of the present age. We have no longer
any right to believe in the old oft-refuted hypothesis which assumes
that each individual organism produces germ-cells afresh again and
again and transmits all its powers developed and acquired by the
parents; but, on the contrary, we have come to know to-day that
parents are nothing but mere channels through which these germ-plasms
or germ-cells manifest their peculiar tendencies and powers which
existed in them from the very beginning. The main point is that the
germs are not created by the parents, but that they existed in
previous generations.

Now, what are those germs like? Wherefrom do they acquire these
tendencies, these peculiarities? That is another very difficult
problem. Dr. Weismann and his followers say that these peculiarities
are gained or inherited "from the common stock," but what that common
stock is they do not explain. Where is that common stock and why will
certain germs acquire certain tendencies and other germs retain other
peculiarities? What regulates them? These questions are not solved. So
far we have gathered from Dr. Weismann's explanation that the parents
are not the creators of the germs but, on the contrary, that the germs
existed before the birth of the body, before the growth of the body,
in previous generations, or in the common stock of the universe. The
previous generations are dead and gone, so we may say that they
existed in the universe. We cannot now believe the old, crude,
often-refuted idea that God creates the germ at the time of birth and
puts into it all the powers and peculiarities of the parents. This
theory makes God unjust and partial, so it does not appeal to us any
more. We need better and more rational explanations. The one-birth
theory, which has been preached by Christian ministers and other
religionists for so many years, does not remove the difficulties, does
not explain the cause of the inequalities and diversities, does not
answer the question whether we acquire all the tendencies and
peculiarities of the parents or whether acquired characters cannot be
transmitted. We have already seen that these questions are left
unsolved by the one-birth theory of Christianity and of Judaism. But
this theory of "continuity of the germ-plasm" pushes the question of
heredity to the door of Reincarnation. If modern science can explain
what that common stock is and why and how these germs retain those
peculiarities and tendencies, then the answer will be complete and not
until then. The Vedanta philosophy, however, has already explained the
cause of the potentiality in the germ of life or "germ-plasm" or

Vedanta solves this difficulty by saying that each of these
germ-plasms or germ-cells is nothing but the subtle form of a
reincarnating individual, containing potentially all the experiences,
characters, tendencies, and desires which one had in one's previous
life. It existed before the birth of the body and it will continue
after the death of the body. This germ or subtle body is not the same
as the astral body of the Theosophists, or the double of the
metaphysical thinkers or the disembodied spirit of the Spiritualists;
but it is an ethereal center of activity-physical, mental and
organic. It is a center which possesses the tendency to manifest these
powers on different planes of existence. It contains the minute
particles of matter or ethereal substance and the life principle or
vital energy by which we live and move. It also possesses the mental
powers and sense powers; but all these remain latent, just as in a
seed we see that the powers of growth, of assimilation and of
producing flowers and fruits are latent.

At the time of death the individual soul contracts and remains in the
form of a germ of life. It is for this reason, Vedanta teaches, that
it is neither the will of God nor the fault of the parents that forms
the characters of children, but each child is responsible for its
tendencies, capacities, powers and character. It is its own "Karma" or
past actions that make a child a murderer or a saint, virtuous or
sinful. The stored-up potentialities in a subtle body manifest in the
character of an individual.

The argument advanced by the supporters of the theory of hereditary
transmission does not furnish a satisfactory explanation of the cause
of the inequalities and diversities of the universe. Why is it that
the children of the same parents show a marked dissimilarity to their
parents and to each other?

Why do twins develop into dissimilar characters and possess opposite
qualities, although they are born of the same parents at the same time
and brought up under similar conditions and environments? How can
heredity explain such cases? Suppose a man has five children; one is
honest and saintly, another is an idiot, the third becomes a murderer,
the fourth a genius or prodigy, and the fifth a cripple and
diseased. Who made these dissimilarities? They cannot be
accidents. There is no such thing as an accident. Every event of the
universe is bound by the law of cause and effect. There must be some
cause of these inequalities. Who made one honest and saintly, another
an idiot, and so forth? Parents? That cannot be. They never dreamed
that they would beget a murderer or a villain or an idiot. On the
contrary, all parents wish their children to be the best and
happiest. But in spite of such desires they get such children. Why?
What is the cause? Does the theory of heredity explain it? No, not at
all. Suppose a man, twenty-four years old, who has certain traits,
like musical or artistic talents, such as painting and so on, has a
crooked nose and other peculiarities, like cross-eyes, which resemble
those of his grandfather. Suppose his grandfather died six years
before he was born. Now, those who believe in the theory of heredity
will say that this young man inherited all these peculiarities from
his grandfather. When did he inherit? His grandfather had died six
years before he was born. He inherited, of course, in the form of that
germ. What is that germ like? A minute protoplasm, a jelly-like
substance, and if you examine it with a powerful microscope you will
hardly find any difference between it and the proto-plasmic germ of a
dog, or of a cat, or of a tree. It is smaller than a pin's head. And
in that state this young man inherited all these peculiarities from
his grandfather; or, in other words, before he had a nose, he got a
crooked nose; before he had eyes, he inherited cross-eyes, and before
he had any brain, he inherited all the wonderful powers-his musical
and artistic talents. Does it not seem absurd to you? Even if we admit
this theory of heredity, then what do we understand? That the whole of
this young man existed in the form of a protoplasm before he was
born. His cross-eyes, his crooked nose, his artistic talents--all
these pre-existed in the form of a protoplasmic cell. This leads up to
the same thing which is taught by the theory of Reincarnation, or, in
other words, if it be possible for this young man to remain in the
form of a protoplasm and inherit all these things before his birth,
why cannot we believe that the soul or the subtle body of this young
man possessed them from the very beginning? According to Vedanta this
young man was not the creature of his grandfather, but he had his own
independent existence; only by coming through the channel of his
parents he had received certain characteristic impressions, just as a
tree in its process of growth will receive from the environments
certain peculiarities when it assimilates those properties.

The doctrine of Reincarnation alone can explain satisfactorily and
rationally the diversities among children and the reason of the many
instances of uncommon powers and genius displayed in childhood. The
theory of heredity has up to this time failed to give any good reason
for them. Why is it that Pascal, when twelve years old, succeeded in
discovering for himself the greater part of plane geometry. How could
the shepherd Mangiamelo, when five years old, calculate like an
arithmetical machine. Think of the child Zerah Colburn: when he was
under eight years of age he could solve the most tremendous
mathematical problems instantly and without using any figures. "In one
instance he took the number 8 and raised it up progressively to the
sixteenth power and instantly mentioned the result which contained 15
figures--28l,474,976,710,656." Of course he was right in every
figure. When asked the square root of numbers consisting of six
figures, he would state the result instantly with perfect accuracy. He
used to give the cube root of numbers in the hundreds of millions the
very moment when it was asked. Somebody asked him once how many
minutes there were in 48 years, he answered, 25,288,800.

Mozart, the great musician, wrote a sonata when he was four years old
and an opera in his eighth year. Theresa Milanolla played the violin
with such skill that many people thought that she must have played
before her birth. There are many such instances of wonderful powers
exhibited by artists and painters when they were quite young.
Sankaracharya, the great commentator of the Vedanta philosophy,
finished his commentary when he was twelve years old. How can such
cases be explained by the theory of hereditary transmission? Many of
you have heard of the wonderful musical talents of Blind Tom. This
blind negro slave was born on his master's plantation and was brought
up as a typical negro. He received no training in music or in any
other line. One day when his master's family were at dinner he
happened to come into his master's parlor and displayed his marvelous
musical power for the first time by playing on his master's
piano. Afterwards he was exhibited in different states of this
country. Physically he was nothing but a typical negro. His intellect
was very poor, but in music he was a master. His musical talents were
so great that he composed music for himself and played his own
compositions. Sometimes after hearing a new piece of rapid music once,
he could reproduce it note for note. Where did he get all these
powers? From whom did he inherit them? His parents perhaps never heard
of a piano. He never had a lesson in his life, and he could not have
understood even if he had had any. Not long ago I saw a girl of about
six years, who played the piano most beautifully and who could
reproduce the most difficult music after hearing it once. It seems to
me that she must have played the piano in her previous incarnation.
This is the only explanation that we can give.

Does heredity explain such cases? No. These illustrations are
sufficient to disprove the theory of "cumulative heredity".
"Cumulative" means gradualness. The believers in this theory say that
a genius is the result of cumulative heredity, that is, it presents
itself by degrees from less genius to greater and still greater and so
on. In the whole history of the genealogy of geniuses, like Homer,
Plato, Shakespeare, Goethe, Raphael, there never was in their families
almost Plato, almost Shakespeare, or almost Goethe. Neither is it
possible to trace the extraordinary powers of any of these back to any
member of their ancestral line. Therefore we can say that no other
theory than that of Reincarnation can explain satisfactorily the
causes which produce geniuses and prodigies in this world.

Those who accept the truth of Reincarnation do not blame their parents
for their poor talents, or for not possessing extraordinary powers,
but they remain content with their own lot, knowing that they have
made themselves as they are to-day by their own thoughts and deeds in
their previous incarnations. They understand the meaning of the saying
"what thou sowest thou must reap," and always endeavor to mould their
future by better thoughts and better deeds. They explain all the
inequalities and diversities of life and character by the law of
"Karma," which governs the process of Reincarnation as well as the
gradual evolution of the germs of life from lower to higher stages of


The amazing achievements of modern science have been opening every day
new gates of wisdom and slowly bringing human minds nearer and nearer
to the ultimate reality of the universe. The fire of knowledge kindled
by science has already burnt down many dogmas and beliefs, held sacred
by the superstition of the past, which stood in the way of
truth-seeking minds. In the first place science has disproved the
theory of the creation of the universe out of nothing by the action of
some supernatural power. It has shown that the universe did not appear
in its present form or come into existence all of a sudden only a few
thousand years ago, but that it has taken ages to pass through
different stages before it could reach its present condition. Each of
these stages was directly related to a previous stage by the law of
causation, which always operates in accordance with definite
rules. The phenomena of the universe, according to science, are
subject to evolution, or gradual change and progressive development
from a relatively uniform condition to a relative complexity. From the
greatest solar system down to the smallest blade of grass, everything
in the universe has taken its present shape and form through this
cosmic process of evolution. Our planet earth has gradually evolved,
perhaps out of a nebulous mass which existed at first in a gaseous
state. The sun, moon, stars, satellites and other planets have come
into existence by going through innumerable changes produced by the
evolutionary process of the Cosmos. Through the same process plants,
insects, fishes, reptiles, birds, animals, man, and all living matter
that inhabit this earth have evolved from minute germs of life into
their present forms. The theory of Evolution says that man did not
come into existence all of a sudden, but is related to lower animals
and to plants, either directly or indirectly. The germ of life had
passed through various stages of physical form before it could appear
as a man. That branch of science which is called Embryology has proved
the fact that "man is the epitome of the whole creation." It tells
that the human body before its birth passes through all the different
stages of the animal kingdom--such as the polyp, fish, reptile, dog,
ape, and at last, man. If we remember that nature is always
consistent, that her laws are uniform and that whatever exists in the
microcosm exists also in the macrocosm, and then study nature, we
shall find that all the germs of life which exist in the universe are
bound to pass through stages resembling the embryonic types before
they can appear in the form of man.

In explaining the theory of Evolution, science says that there are two
principal factors in the process of evolution; the first is the
tendency to vary, which exists in all living forms whether vegetable
or animal; the second is the tendency of environment to influence that
variation, either favorably or unfavorably. Without the first,
evolution of any kind would be absolutely impossible. But the cause of
that innate tendency to vary is still unknown to science. Upon the
second depends the law of natural selection. The variation must be
adapted to favorable conditions of life; consequently either the germ
of life will select suitable environments or vary itself in order to
suit the surrounding conditions, if they are unfavorable. But the
agent of this selective process is the struggle for existence, which
is a no less important factor. Thus Evolution depends on these three
laws: Tendency to vary, or variation, natural selection, and struggle
for existence. Science tries to explain through these three laws the
physical, mental, intellectual, moral and spiritual evolution of
mankind. But the theory of Evolution will remain unintelligible until
science can trace the cause of that innate "tendency to vary" which
exists in every stage of all living forms.

If we study closely we find that man's "self" consists of two natures,
one animal and the other moral or spiritual. Animal nature includes
all the animal propensities, desire for sense enjoyments, love of
self, fear of death and struggle for existence. Each of these is to be
found in lower animals as well as in human beings, the difference
being only in degree and not in kind. In a savage tribe the expression
of this animal nature is simple and natural, while in a highly
civilized nation it is expressed not in a simple and straightforward
manner, but in an artful and refined way. In a civilized community the
same nature working through varied device, policy and plan brings the
same results in a more polished form. In the struggle for existence
amongst lower animals and savage tribes, those who are physically
strong survive and gain advantage over those who are physically weak;
while in the civilized world the same result is obtained, not by
displaying physical force, but by art, diplomacy, policy, strategy and
skill. Various kinds of defensive and offensive weapons have been
invented to conquer those who are less skillful in using them,
although they may be physically stronger. The simple expression of
animal nature which we notice in savages and lower animals, by the
natural process of evolution has gradually become more and more
complex, as we find in the civilized nations of the world. The energy
of the lower human nature is spent chiefly in the struggle for
material existence.

But there is another nature in man which is higher than this. It
expresses itself in various ways, but on a higher plane. Love of
truth, mastery over passion, control of the senses, disinterested
self-sacrifice, mercy and kindness to all creatures, desire to help
the distressed, forgiveness, faith in a Supreme Being and devotion;
all these are the expressions of that higher moral and spiritual
nature. They cannot be explained as developed from animal nature by
means of the struggle for material existence. For these qualities are
not to be found in lower animals, although the struggle for existence
is there. The moral and spiritual nature of human beings cannot be
traced as the outgrowth or gradual development of the animal
nature. There is a dispute among the Evolutionists as to the method of
explaining their cause. Some say that these higher faculties have
evolved out of the lower ones and have developed by variation and
natural selection; while others hold that some other higher influence,
law or agency is required to account for them.

Professor Huxley says: "As I have already urged, the practice of that
which is ethically best--what we call goodness or virtue--involves a
course of conduct which in all respects is opposed to that which leads
to success in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless
self-assertion, it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside
or treading down all competitors, it requires that the individual
shall not merely respect, but shall help his fellows; its influence is
directed not so much to the survival of the fittest as to the fitting
of as many as possible to survive. It repudiates the gladiatorial
theory of existence. It demands that each man who enters into the
enjoyment of the advantages of a polity shall be mindful of his debt
to those who have laboriously constructed it, and shall take heed that
no act of his weakens the fabric in which he has been permitted to
live. Laws and moral precepts are directed to the end of curbing the
cosmic process, and reminding the individual of his duty to the
community, to the protection and influence of which he owes, if not
existence itself, at least the life of something better than a brutal
savage." ("Evolution and Ethics," pp. 81-82.)

Prof. Calderwood says: "So far as human organism is concerned, there
seem no overwhelming obstacles to be encountered by an evolution
theory, but it seems impossible under such a theory to account for the
appearance of the thinking, self-regulating life distinctly human."
Thus, according to some of the best thinkers, the explanation of the
moral and spiritual nature of man as a development of the animal
nature, is quite insufficient and unsatisfactory. The theory of
natural selection in the struggle for existence cannot explain the
cause of the higher nature of man. We cannot say that a theory is
complete because it explains many facts. On the contrary, if it fails
to explain a single fact, then it is proved to be incomplete. As such,
the theory that cannot explain satisfactorily the cause of the moral
and spiritual nature of man cannot be accepted as a complete
theory. That explanation will be considered as complete which will
explain most satisfactorily all the various manifestations of the
animal, moral and spiritual nature. Moreover, supposing the "tendency
to vary" has evolved into the moral and spiritual nature of man,
science does not explain the cause of that tendency to vary, nor how
animal nature can be transformed into moral and spiritual nature. Is
that "tendency to vary" indefinite, or is it limited by any definite
law? Science does not say anything about it.

The explanation of the theologians, that the spiritual nature has been
superadded to the animal nature by some extra-cosmic spiritual agency
is not scientific, nor does it appeal to our reason. Now let us see
what Vedanta has to say on this point. Vedanta accepts evolution and
admits the laws of variation and natural selection, but goes a step
beyond modern science by explaining the cause of that "tendency to
vary." It says, "there is nothing in the end which was not also in the
beginning." It is a law which governs the process of evolution as well
as the law of causation. If we admit this grand truth of nature, then
it will not be difficult to explain by the theory of Evolution the
gradual manifestation of the higher nature of man. The tendency of
scientific monism is towards that end.

Some of the modern scientists who hold the monistic position have
found out the same truth which was discovered long ago by the Vedantic
philosophers in India. J. Arthur Thomson, an eminent English scientist
of the present day, in his book on "The Study of Animal Life," says:
"The world is one, not two-fold-, the spiritual influx is the primal
reality and there is nothing in the end which was not also in the
beginning." But the evolutionists do not accept this truth. Let us
understand it clearly. It means that that which existed potentially at
the time of the beginning of evolution has gradually manifested in the
various stages and grades of evolution. If we admit that a unicellular
germ of life or a bioplasm, after passing through various stages of
evolution, has ultimately manifested in the form of a highly developed
human being, then we shall have to admit the potentiality of all the
manifested powers in that germ or bioplasm, because the law is "that
which exists in the end existed also in the beginning." The animal
nature, higher nature, mind, intellect, spirit, all these exist
potentially in the germ of life. If we do not admit this law then the
problem will arise: How can non-existence become existent? How can
something come out of nothing? How can that come into existence which
did not exist before? Each germ of life, according to Vedanta,
possesses infinite potentialities and infinite possibilities. The
powers that remain latent have the natural tendency to manifest
perfectly and to become actual. In their attempt they vary according
to the surrounding environments, selecting suitable conditions or
remaining latent as long as circumstances do not favor them. Therefore
variation, according to Vedanta, is caused by this attempt of the
potential powers to become actual. When life and mind began to evolve,
the possibilities of action and reaction hitherto latent in the germ
of life became real and all things became, in a sense, new. Nobody can
imagine the amount of latent power which a minute germ of life
possesses until it expresses in gross form on the physical plane. By
seeing the seed of a Banyan tree, one who has never seen the tree
cannot imagine what powers lie dormant in it. When a baby is born we
cannot tell whether he will be a great saint, or a wonderful artist,
or a philosopher, or an idiot, or a villain of the worst type. Parents
know nothing about his future. Along with his growth certain latent
powers gradually begin to manifest. Those which are the strongest and
most powerful will overcome others and check their course for some
time; but when the powers that remain subdued by stronger ones get
favorable conditions they will appear in manifested forms. As, for
instance, chemical forces may slumber in matter for a thousand years,
but when the contact with the re-agents sets them free, they appear
again and produce certain results. For thousands of years galvanism
slumbered in copper and zinc, which lay quietly beside silver. As soon
as all three are brought together under the required conditions silver
is consumed in flame. A dry seed of a plant may preserve the
slumbering power of growth through two or three thousand years and
then reappear under favorable conditions. Sir G. Wilkinson, the great
archaeologist, found some grains of wheat in a hermetically sealed
vase in a grave at Thebes, which must have lain there for three
thousand years. When Mr. Pettigrew sowed them they grew into plants.
Some vegetable roots found in the hands of an Egyptian mummy, which
must have been at least two thousand years old, were planted in a
flower-pot, and they grew and flourished. Thus, whenever the latent
powers get favorable conditions, they manifest according to their
nature, even after thousands of years.

Similarly, there are many instances of slumbering mental powers. After
remaining dormant for a long period in our normal condition, they may,
in certain abnormal states--such as madness, delirium, catalepsy,
hypnotic sleep and so forth-flash out into luminous consciousness and
throw into absolute oblivion the powers that are manifesting in the
normal state. Talents for eloquence, music, painting, and uncommon
ingenuity in several mechanical arts, traces of which were never found
in the ordinary normal condition, are often evolved in the state of
madness. Somnambulists in deep sleep have solved most difficult
mathematical problems and performed various acts with results which
have surprised them in their normal waking states. Thus we can
understand that each individual mind is the storehouse of many powers,
various impressions and ideas, some of which manifest in our normal
state, while others remain latent. Our present condition of mind and
body is nothing but the manifested form of certain dormant powers that
exist in ourselves. If new powers are roused up and begin to manifest
the whole nature will be changed into a new form. The manifestation of
latent powers is at the bottom of the evolution of one species into
another. This idea has been expressed in a few words by Patanjali, the
great Hindu evolutionist who lived long before the Christian
era. [Footnote: The reader ought to know that the doctrine of
Evolution was known in India long before the Christian era. About the
seventh century, B. C., Kapila, the father of Hindu Evolutionists,
explained this theory for the first time through logic and
science. Sir Monier Monier Williams says: "Indeed if I may be allowed
the anachronism, the Hindus were Spinozites more than 2,000 years
before the existence of Spinoza; and Darwinians many centuries before
Darwin; and Evolutionists many centuries before the doctrine of
Evolution had been accepted by the scientists of our time and before
any word like Evolution existed in any language of the world." (P. 12,
"Hinduism and Brahminism.") Prof. Huxley says: "To say nothing of
Indian Sages to whom Evolution was a familiar notion ages before Paul
of Tarsus was born." (P. 150, "Science and Hebrew Tradition.")] In the
second aphorism of the fourth chapter (see "Raja Yoga," by Swami
Vivekananda, p. 210) it is said, "The Evolution into another species
is caused by the in-filling of nature." The nature is filled not from
without but from within. Nothing is superadded to the individual soul
from outside. The germs are already there, but their development
depends upon their coming in contact with the necessary conditions
requisite for proper manifestation. We sometimes see a wicked man
suddenly become saintlike. There are instances of murderers and
robbers becoming saints. A religionist will explain the cause of their
sudden change, by saying that the grace of the Almighty has fallen
upon them and transformed their whole nature. But Vedanta says that
the moral and spiritual powers that remained latent in them have been
roused up, and the result is the sudden transformation. None can tell
when or how the slumbering powers will wake up and begin to
manifest. The germ of life, or the individual soul as it is ordinarily
called, possesses infinite possibilities. Each germ of life is
studying, as it were, the book of its own nature by unfolding one page
after another. When it has gone through all the pages, or, in other
words, all the stages of evolution, perfect knowledge is acquired, and
its course is finished. We have read our lower nature by turning each
page, or, in other words, by passing through each stage of animal life
from the minutest bioplasm up to the present stage of existence. Now
we are studying the pages which deal with moral and spiritual laws. If
any one wants to read any page over again he will do it. Just as in
reading a book, if anybody feels particularly interested in any page
or chapter he will read it over and over again and will not open a new
page or a new chapter until he is perfectly satisfied with
it. Similarly, in reading the book of life, if the individual soul
likes any particular stage, he will stay there until he is perfectly
satisfied with it; after that he will go forward and study other
pages. One may read very slowly, and another very fast; but whether we
read slowly or rapidly each one of us is bound to read the whole book
of nature and attain to perfection sooner or later.

According to Vedanta, the end and aim of Evolution is the attainment
of perfection. Physical evolution of animal life reached its
perfection in human form. There cannot be any other form higher than
human on this earth under present conditions. It is the perfection of
animal form. From this we can infer that the tendency of the law of
Evolution is to reach perfection. When it is attained to, the whole
purpose is served. Do we see in nature any other higher form evolved
out of the human body? No. Shall we not be justified if we say that
the end of physical evolution is the attainment of the perfection of
animal form? Again as the purpose and method of natural laws are
uniform throughout the universe, the end of intellectual, moral and
spiritual evolution will be attained when intellectual, moral and
spiritual perfection are acquired. Intellectual perfection means
perfection of intellect; and intellect is perfect when we understand
the true nature of things and never mistake the unreal for the real,
matter for spirit, non-eternal for eternal, or _vice versa_. Moral
perfection consists in the destruction of selfishness; and spiritual
perfection is the manifestation of the true nature of spirit which is
immortal, free, divine and one with the Universal Spirit or
God. Evolution attains to the highest fulfilment of its purpose when
the spirit manifests perfectly. The tendency of nature is to have
perfect manifestation of all her powers. When certain powers
predominate they manifest first while the others remain dormant. As we
find in the process of evolution, when animal nature manifests
perfectly the moral and spiritual nature remain latent. Again when
moral and spiritual nature manifest fully, the animal is in
abeyance. It is for this reason we do not find expressions of moral
and spiritual nature in lower animals or in those human beings who
live like them. Man is the only animal in whom such perfect
expressions of moral and spiritual nature are possible. When the
individual soul begins to study its spiritual nature, its lower or
animal nature is gradually eclipsed. As the higher nature becomes
powerful the lower nature dwindles into insignificance; its energy is
transformed into that of the higher nature, and ultimately it
disappears altogether and rises no more. Then the soul becomes free
from the lower or animal nature. There are many stages in the higher
nature, as well as in the lower. Each of these stages binds the
individual soul so long as it stays there. As it rises on a higher
plane the lower stages disappear and cease to bind. But the moment
that any individual, after passing through all the stages of the
spiritual nature, reaches the ultimate point of perfection, he
realizes his true nature which is immortal and divine. Then his true
individuality manifests. For lack of true knowledge, he identified
himself with each stage successively and thought that his
individuality was one with the powers which were manifested in each
stage. Consequently he thought by mistake that he was affected by the
changes of each stage. But now he realizes that his real individuality
always remained unaffected. He sees that his true individuality
shines always in the same manner, although the limiting adjuncts may
vary. As the light of a lamp appears of different colors, if it passes
through glasses of different colors, so the light of the true
individual appears as animal or human when it passes through the
animal or human nature of the subtle body. The subtle body of an
individual changes from animal nature through moral and spiritual into
divine. As this gradual growth cannot be expected in one life we shall
have to admit the truth of Reincarnation, which teaches gradual
evolution of the germ of life or the individual soul through many
lives and various forms. Otherwise the theory of Evolution will remain
imperfect, incomplete and purposeless. The doctrine of Reincarnation
differs from the accepted theory of Evolution in admitting a gradual
but continuous evolution of the subtle body through many gross
forms. The gross body may appear or disappear, but the subtle body
continues to exist even after the dissolution of the gross body and
re-manifests itself in some other form.

The theory of Reincarnation when properly understood will appear as a
supplement to the theory of Evolution. Without this most important
supplement the Evolution theory will never be complete and
perfect. Evolution explains the process of life, while Reincarnation
explains the purpose of life. Therefore, both must go hand in hand to
make the explanation satisfactory in every respect.

James Freeman Clarke says: "That man has come up to his present state
of development by passing through lower forms, is the popular doctrine
of science to-day. What is called Evolution teaches that we have
reached our present state by a very long and gradual ascent from the
lowest animal organizations. It is true that the Darwinian theory
takes no notice of the evolution of the soul, but only of the
body. But it appears to me that a combination of the two views would
remove many difficulties which still attach to the theory of natural
selection and the survival of the fittest. If we are to believe in
Evolution let us have the assistance of the soul itself in this
development of new species. Thus science and philosophy will
co-operate, nor will poetry hesitate to lend her aid." (P. 190, "Ten
Great Religions," II.) Evolution of the body depends upon the
evolution of the germ of life or the individual soul. When these two
are combined the explanation becomes perfect.

The theory of Reincarnation is a logical necessity for the completion
of the theory of Evolution. If we admit a continuous evolution of a
unit of the germ of life through many gross manifestations then we
unconsciously accept the teachings of the doctrine of Reincarnation.
In passing through different forms and manifestations the unit of life
does not lose its identity or individuality. As an atom does not lose
its identity or individuality (if you allow me to suppose an atom has
a kind of individuality) although it passes from the mineral, through
the vegetable, into the animal, so the germ of life always preserves
its identity or individuality although it passes through the different
stages of evolution.

Therefore it is said in the "Bhagavad Gita," as in our ordinary life
the individual soul passes from a baby body to a young one and from a
young to an old, and carries with it all the impressions, ideas and
experience that it has gathered in its former stage of existence and
reproduces them in proper time, so when a man dies the individual soul
passes from an old body into a new one, and takes with it the subtle
body wherein are stored up all that it experienced and gathered during
its past incarnations. Knowing this, wise men are never afraid of
death. They know that death is nothing but a mere change from one body
into another. Therefore, if any one does not succeed in conquering the
lower nature by the higher, he will try again in his next incarnation,
after starting from the point which he reached in his past life. He
will not begin again from the very beginning, but from the last stage
at which he arrived. Thus we see that Reincarnation is the logical
sequence of evolution. It completes and makes perfect that theory and
explains the cause of the moral and spiritual nature of man.


The students of history are interested to know where the idea of
resurrection first arose and how it was adopted by other nations. If
we read carefully the writings ascribed to Moses and other writers of
the Old Testament we find that the ancient Israelites did not believe
in the Christian heaven or hell, nor in reward or punishment after
death. It is doubtful whether they had any clear conception of the
existence of soul after the dissolution of the human body. They had no
definite idea of the hereafter. They did not believe in the
resurrection either of the soul or body. Job longed for death thinking
that it would end his mental agony. In Psalms we read, "Wilt Thou shew
wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee?"
(Ps. lxxxviii, 10.) "In death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the
grave who shall give Thee thanks?" (Ps. vi, 5.) Again (Ps. cxlvi, 4)
it is said about princes and the son of man,--"His breath goeth forth,
he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish." "The
dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence."
(Ps. cxv, 17.) Solomon speaks boldly: "All things come alike to all;
there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked, to the good and
to the clean and to the unclean... as is the good, so is the sinner."
(Eccl. ix, 2.) "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine
with a merry heart.... Live joyfully with thy wife... for there is no
work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou
goest." (Eccl. ix, 7, 9, 10.) Again in verse 5 it is said: "The dead
know not anything, neither have they anymore a reward, for the memory
of them is forgotten." Solomon says: "For that which befalleth the
sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the
one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath, so that
a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast." "All go into one place; all
are of the dust and all turn to dust again." "Who knoweth the spirit
of man that goeth upward and the spirit of the beast that goeth
downward to the earth?" (Eccl. iii, 19-21.) There are many such
passages which show clearly that before the Babylonian captivity the
Israelites had no belief in reward or punishment, neither in heaven
nor hell nor in the resurrection of the soul. Some say that they had a
belief in a sheol or pit where departed souls remained after death,
but were never resurrected. But when the ancient Jews were conquered
by the Persians, 536 B.C., they came in contact with a nation which
had developed a belief in one God, in a heaven and a hell, in the
resurrection of the dead, in reward and punishment after death, and in
the last day of judgment. Under the dominion of Persia, whose rule
began with the capture of Babylon and lasted from 536-333 B.C., the
Jews were greatly influenced by the Persian religion. They gave up
their idolatry, gradually developed social organization and had
considerable liberty. About that time the Jews were divided into two
classes, the Pharisees and Sadducees. Those who adopted the religious
ideas of the Parsees were called Pharisees (according to some
authorities the word Pharisee was the Hebrew form of Parsee), and
those who followed strictly the Jewish ideas, ceremonies, rituals and
beliefs were called Sadducees. The former were sharply opposed to the
latter in their doctrinal beliefs. They believed in angels and
spirits, they expected the resurrection of the dead and believed in
future reward and punishment and also in Divine pre-ordination. The
Sadducees did not step beyond the bounds of ancient Judaism. They
were Orthodox and very conservative in their views. They denied the
existence of angels and spirits, the resurrection of the dead, and
reward and punishment after death. In Matt, xxii, 23, we read, "The
same day came to him the Sadducees which say that there is no
resurrection." The Sadducees were fewer in number than the
Pharisees. Gradually the latter grew very powerful and after the death
of Jesus their doctrines of the resurrection of the dead, and of
reward and punishment after death, and the belief in angels and
spirits, became the cardinal principles of the new Christian sect.
Thus we see that the idea of resurrection first arose in Persia and
afterwards took a prominent place in the writings of the New
Testament, and since then it has been largely accepted by the
Christians of the Western countries. The Zoroastrians believed that
the soul of the dead hovers about the body for three nights and does
not depart for the other world until the dawn after the third night.
Then the righteous go to heaven and the wicked to hell. There the
wicked remain until the time of renovation of the universe, that is,
the judgment day. After the renovation, when Ahriman or Satan is
killed, the souls of the wicked will be purified and have everlasting
progress. [Footnote: "Sacred Books of the East," Vol. xvii, pp. 27,
34, 46.] The question was asked, "How shall they produce
resurrection?" Ahura Mazda says: "The reply is this, that the
preparation and production of the resurrection are an achievement
connected with miracle, a sublimity, and afterwards also a wondrous
appearance unto the creatures uninformed. The secrets and affairs of
the persistent Creator are like every mystery and secret." [Footnote:
_Ibid_., p. 80.]

The Zoroastrians believed in the resurrection, not of the physical
body, but of the soul, and that it was an act of miracle. Similarly
miraculous was the resurrection of Jesus. Although Jesus Himself never
mentioned what kind of resurrection, whether of body or of soul that
He meant and believed in, the interpretation of the writers of the
Gospels shows that His disciples understood Him to mean bodily
resurrection and the re-appearance of His physical form. The three
days remained, just as the Zoroastrians believed. The miraculous and
wondrous appearance of Jesus before His disciples was preached most
vigorously by Paul. In his Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul declares
emphatically that the whole of the Christian religion depends upon the
miraculous resurrection and re-appearance of Jesus. Although Paul
said the spiritual body of the risen dead is not the same as flesh and
blood body (I Cor., XV), still that important point is generally
overlooked, and the result is the belief which we find amongst some of
the Christian sects; that at the call of the angels, the body will
rise from the grave and the mouldering dust of bones and flesh will be
put together by the miraculous power of the Almighty God. Paul says:
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of
them that slept" (I Cor., XV, 20). He preached that Christ was the
first born from the dead, that those who believe in Christ would rise
as He did and that those who would not believe in Him or in His
resurrection should not rise.

We have already noticed that the Parsees believed in a miraculous
resurrection; that the same miracle became more definite in the case
of Jesus; and that the Christian faith was afterwards founded upon
that miraculous event. Both the Parsees and the followers of Christ
did not mean by resurrection any universal law, but a miracle done by
certain supernatural powers. They did not give any scientific reasons
for such a miracle.

But modern science denies miracles. It teaches that this universe is
guided, not by miracles as the old thinkers used to believe, but by
definite laws which are always consistent and universal. There cannot
be any exception to those laws which are uniform throughout. If
resurrection be one of those laws, then it must have existed before
the birth of Jesus; as such, how could He be the first born from the
dead, as described by Paul. Conversely, if Jesus was the first who
rose from the dead, then resurrection cannot be a universal
law. Scientists would not believe in anything which is not based upon
universal laws. Some of the agnostics and materialists have gone so
far as to say that Jesus did not die on the cross, but his animation
was suspended when his body was taken down from the cross by Joseph of
Arimathsea. When Joseph went to Pilate and craved the body of Jesus,
Pilate marvelled if He were dead (Mark XV, 44), because it was only
six hours after the crucifixion. Some of the modern physiologists are
of opinion that temperate and strong men might live for several days
on the cross. These heretical agnostics and skeptical scientists say
that the body of Jesus revived after a few hours in the cool, rock-cut
tomb, that he walked out of the tomb, went to Galilee and appeared
before his disciples. [Footnote: Vide "Science and Christian
Tradition," by Prof. Huxley, pp. 279-280.] Whatever the facts may be
(nobody can now tell exactly what actually happened), it is clear that
the scientists are not ready to take anything upon authority. They do
not care to believe in anything because it is written in this book or
that. They must have convincing proofs and a rational explanation of
every phenomenon of nature. They want to penetrate into miracles in
order to discover the universal laws that govern them. If they do not
find any such laws, they will surely reject every event that is
supposed to be caused by miraculous or supernatural powers.

The theory of a miraculous resurrection is attended with the belief
that the individual soul does not exist before birth. The supporters
of this theory hold that at the time of birth, the individual, being
created out of nothing, comes fresh into existence. But science tells
us that sudden creation out of nothing and a total destruction of
anything are both impossible. Matter and force are indestructible.
Science teaches evolution and not creation, and denies the
intervention of any supernatural being as the cause of phenomenal
changes. The theory of Resurrection ignores all these ultimate
conclusions of modern science. On the contrary, the doctrine of
Reincarnation, after accepting all the truths and laws of nature that
have been discovered by modern science, carries them to their proper
logical conclusions. Reincarnation is based upon evolution. It means
a continuous evolution of an individual germ of life, and a gradual
re-manifestation of all the powers and forces that exist in it
potentially. Moreover, the doctrine of Reincarnation is founded on the
law of cause and effect. It teaches that the cause is not outside of
the effect, but lies in the effect. The cause is the potential or
unmanifested state of the effect, and effect is the actual or
manifested cause. There is one current of infinite force or power
constantly flowing in the ocean of reality of the universe, and
appearing in the innumerable forms of waves. We call one set of waves
the cause of another set, but in fact that which is the cause is the
potentiality of the future effect and the actuality of a previous
potential cause. The underlying current is one and the same
throughout. Reincarnation denies the idea that the soul has come into
existence all of a sudden or has been created for the first time, but
it holds that it has been existing from the beginningless past, and
will exist all through eternity. The individual soul enjoys or
suffers according to the acts it performs. All enjoyment and suffering
are but the reactions of our actions. Actions are the causes and the
reactions are the results. Our present life is the result of our past
actions, and our future will be the result of the present. The actions
which we are now doing will not be lost. Do you think that the
thought-forces of one life-time will end suddenly after death?
No. They will be conserved and remain potentially in the center and
re-manifest under suitable conditions. Each human soul is nothing but
a center of thought-force. This center is called in Sanskrit
_Sukshma Sarira_ or the subtle body of an individual. The subtle
germ of life or, in other words, the invisible center of
thought-forces, will manufacture a physical vehicle for expressing the
latent powers that are ready for manifestation. This process will
continue until the germ can express most perfectly all the powers that
are coiled up in its invisible form. As the doctrine of Reincarnation
is in agreement with all the physical laws, so it is based upon
psychical, moral and ethical laws. As on the objective plane the law
of action and reaction governs the objective phenomena, so on the
subjective plane of consciousness, if the mental action or thought be
good, the reaction will be good, and the reaction will be evil if the
mental action be evil, because every action produces a similar
reaction, A good reaction is one which makes us happy and brings
pleasant sensations or peace of mind, while an evil reaction brings
suffering, unpleasant sensations, and makes one miserable. Thus
Reincarnation makes us free agents for action, as well as for reaping
the results or reactions of those actions. In fact, we mould our own
nature, according to our desires, tendencies and works.

The theory of Resurrection, as commonly understood, does not explain
why one man is born with a sinful nature and another with a virtuous
one. It contents itself with saying as Luther said: "Man is a beast of
burden who only moves as his rider orders; sometimes God rides him and
sometimes Satan." But why God should allow Satan to ride His own
creature nobody can tell. At any rate, man must suffer eternally for
the crimes which he is forced by Satan to commit. Moreover this theory
pre-supposes predestination and that the individual soul is
fore-doomed to go either to heaven or to hell. St. Augustine first
started this doctrine of Predestination and Grace to explain why one
is born sinful and another sinless. According to this theory, God, the
merciful, favors somebody with His grace at the time of his birth and
then he comes into this world ready to be saved, but the mass of
humanity is born sinful and destined for eternal damnation. Very few
indeed receive the gift of grace and are predestined to be
saved. Moreover, this doctrine tells us that God creates man out of
nothing, forbids him something, but at the same time He does not give
him the power to obey His commands. Ultimately God punishes him with
eternal torture on account of his weakness. The body and soul will not
be separated. He will not be set free from his body, because, if it
be so, there will be the end of his suffering, which God does not
like. All these sufferings and punishments are predestined before his
birth. Thus, St. Augustine's dogma of Predestination and Grace
instead of explaining the difficulty satisfactorily brings horror and
dread to human minds, while the doctrine of Reincarnation teaches
gradual progress from lower to higher, through ages until the
individual reaches perfection. It holds that each individual will
become perfect like Jesus or Buddha or like the Father in heaven and
manifest divinity either in this life or in some other. One span of
life is too short for developing one's powers to perfection. If you
should try to train an idiot to become a great artist or a
philosopher, would you ever succeed in your attempt to make him so
during his lifetime? No. And will you punish him because he cannot
become so? Can a man who possesses the slightest common sense be so
unreasonable? Similarly what would you think if God punishes a man
because he cannot become perfect within a lifetime? It is a poor
argument to say that God has given us free-will to choose between
right and wrong, and we are responsible for our choice; if we choose
wrongly we must be punished. The advocates of such an argument forget
that at the same time God has let loose His powerful Satan to corrupt
His creatures.

It reminds me of an old story. Once on a time at a certain place a
prisoner was released and set free through the kindness of a
tyrant. The tyrant said to the prisoner "Look here, wicked man, I give
you freedom, you can go to any place; but there is one condition; if
you are attacked by any wild animal you will be put in the dungeon and
there will be no end to your torture." So saying he gave him freedom,
but at the same time ordered his servants to let loose a hungry wolf
to chase the man. You can imagine what became of the prisoner. Can we
call this an act of mercy!

The doctrine of Reincarnation says that each individual soul is
potentially perfect and is gradually unfolding its powers and making
them actual through the process of Evolution. At every step of that
process it is gaining different experiences which last only for a
time. Therefore neither God nor Satan is responsible for our good or
evil actions. Good and evil are like the up and down or the crest and
hollow of a wave in the sea. A wave cannot rise without making a
hollow somewhere in the sea. So in the infinite ocean of reality
innumerable waves are constantly rising. The summit of each wave is
called good, while the hollow beside it is evil or misery and the
current of each individual life is constantly flowing towards the
ultimate destination which we call perfection. Who can tell how long
it will take to reach that goal? If anybody can attain to perfection
in this life, he is no longer bound to reincarnate. If he fails he
will continue to progress by taking some other body. Reincarnation
does not teach, as many people think, that in the next incarnation one
will begin from the very beginning, but it says that one will start
from that point which one reaches before death and will keep the
thread of progress unbroken. It does not teach that we go back to
animal bodies after death, but that we get our bodies according to our
desires, tendencies and powers. If any person has no desire to come
back to this world or to any other and does not want to enjoy any
particular object of pleasure, and if he is perfectly free from
selfishness that person will not have to come back. The theory of
Reincarnation is logical and satisfactory. While the theory of
Resurrection is neither based on scientific truths nor can it
logically explain the cause of life and death, Reincarnation solves
all the problems of life and explains scientifically all the questions
and doubts that arise in the human mind.

"Reincarnation is not easily understood by a thoughtless child deluded
by the delusion of wealth, name or fame. Everything ends with death,
he thinks, and thus falls again and again under the sway of death."


The theory of transmigration is one of the oldest theories accepted by
the people of the Orient to solve the problems concerning life and
death as well as to explain the continuity of existence after death.
This theory presupposes the existence of the soul as an entity which
can live even when the gross material body is dead or dissolved into
its elements. Those who deny the existence of the soul, of the
self-conscious thinker and actor, as an entity distinct from the gross
material body, necessarily deny this theory of transmigration. The
materialistic thinkers of all ages have refused to accept this theory,
because they do not admit the existence of a soul or a self-conscious
thinker and actor as an entity, separate from the gross material
body. Consequently they do not ask or discuss whether the soul will
exist after death or not, whether it will continue to live or not.
Such materialists are not the creatures of the twentieth century, but
they have lived in all ages, in all countries. In India and in other
civilized countries of ancient times you will find that materialistic
thinkers prevailed and they gave the same arguments which we hear now
from the agnostics and scientists of to-day. Their arguments are
generally one-sided and unsatisfactory. They try to deduce the soul or
self-conscious entity from the combination of matter or material
forces, but they have not succeeded in giving a scientific proof of
it. No arguments in favor of the existence of a soul as an entity will
convince them, because they deny the existence of anything that cannot
be perceived by sense powers. If we could bring the soul down on the
sense plane and make it visible to these materialistic thinkers, and
if they could make experiments upon it, then perhaps they would be
convinced to a certain extent, but not until then. But how can we
bring the soul down on the sense plane when it is ethereal and finer
than anything that we can perceive with our senses?

Those who try to explain the cause of our earthly life by the theory
of heredity do not believe in the truth of transmigration. The modern
scientists, agnostics and materialists generally accept the theory of
heredity and endeavor to explain everything by it; but if we examine
their arguments for the theory of heredity, we shall find that the
theory of transmigration is much more satisfactory, much more rational
than that of heredity.

Among the followers of the great religions of the world, the majority
of Christians, Jews, Mohammedans and Parsees deny the truth of
transmigration. Of course, there was a time when the Christians
believed in this transmigration theory. Origen and other Church
Fathers accepted it until the time of Justinian, who anathematized all
those who believed in Reincarnation or the pre-existence of the soul.
Among the Jews we find that in the Cabala this idea of transmigration
plays the most important part. In fact the Cabalists accepted this
theory to explain all the difficulties that could not be explained by
any other theory. But those Jews, Christians, Mohammedans and Parsees
who do not believe in the theory of transmigration accept the
one-birth theory; that is, that God creates the souls at the time of
birth out of nothing, and these souls, having come into existence out
of nothing, continue to live forever; that this is our first and last
birth that we receive; we did not exist before, we are suddenly
created by God, and after death each one of us will continue to live
either in heaven or hell to enjoy or to suffer throughout
eternity. Among the modern Spiritualists we find that those who are
born and brought up with this idea of one birth do not accept the
theory of transmigration. Still there are millions and millions of
people all over the world who do believe in transmigration and who
have found comfort and consolation in their lives as well as a
satisfactory solution of the problems of life and death.

The theory of Transmigration, or Metempsychosis, as it has been called
by many philosophers, originally meant the passing of a soul from one
body after death into another; or, in other words, it meant that the
soul after dwelling in one particular body for a certain length of
time leaves it at the time of death, and in order to gain experience
enters into some other body, either human, animal or angelic, which is
ready to receive it. It may migrate from the human body to an angelic
body and then come down on the human plane, or to the animal plane and
be born again as an animal. So the original meaning of transmigration
or metempsychosis was the revolution of the soul from body to body
whether animal, human, angelic or of the gods. The migrating substance
being a fixed quantity, with fixed qualities, chooses its form
according to its taste, desire and bent of character. This idea
prevailed among the ancient Egyptians, according to whom the soul,
after leaving the dead body, would travel from one body to another for
thousands and thousands of years in order to gain experiences in each
of the different stages of life.

Among the Greek philosophers we find that Pythagoras, Plato and their
followers believed in this theory of Metempsychosis or Transmigration
of souls. Pythagoras says: "After death the rational mind, having
been freed from the chains of the body, assumes an ethereal vehicle
and passes into the region of the dead where it remains till it is
sent back to this world to inhabit some other body human or
animal. After undergoing successive purgations, when it is
sufficiently purified, it is received among the gods and returns to
the eternal source from which it first proceeded." Plato also believed
in this theory. Of course we cannot tell exactly from whence
Pythagoras and Plato got these ideas. Some say that they learned
these doctrines from Egypt; others believed that, either directly or
indirectly, they learned the theory of transmigration from
India. Plato describes in "Phaedrus," in mythological language, why
and how the souls take their birth upon this plane, either as human or
animal. He says: "In the heaven Zeus, the Father and Lord of all
creatures, drives his winged car, ordering all things and
superintending them. A host of deities and spirits follow him, each
fulfilling his own function. Whoever will and can follows them. After
taking this round, they advance by a steep course along the inner
circumference of the heavenly vault and proceed to a banquet. The
chariots of the gods, being well balanced and well driven, advance
easily; others with difficulty; for the vicious horse, unless the
charioteer has thoroughly broken him, weighs down the car by his
proclivity towards the earth, whereupon the soul is put to the
extremity of toil and effort. The souls of gods reach the summit, go
outside and stand upon the surface of heaven, and enjoy celestial
bliss. Such is the life of the gods; other souls which follow God best
and are likest to Him succeed in seeing the vision of truth and in
entering into the outer world with great difficulty. The rest of the
souls longing after the upper world all follow; but not being strong
enough, they are carried round in the deep below, plunging, treading
on one another, striving to be first, and there, in confusion and
extremity of effort, many of them are lamed and have their wings
broken. Thus when the soul is unable to follow and fails to behold the
vision of Truth, sinks beneath the double load of forgetfulness and
vice, her feathers fall from her and she drops to earth and is born
again and again as human beings or as animals." Plato says: "Ten
thousand years must elapse before the soul can return to the place
from whence she came, for she cannot grow her wings in less." "At the
end of the first thousand years, the souls of the good and of the evil
kind come together to draw lots, and choose their bodies according to
their tendencies and the bent of their characters. They may take any
they like. Instead of receiving the natural consequences of their
deeds and misdeeds of their previous lives they are allowed to choose
their own lot, according to their experience and bent of
character. Some, being disgusted with mankind, prefer to be born as
animals, such as lions and eagles or some other animals. Others
delight in trying their luck as human beings." From this mythological
description we gather what Plato meant by transmigration.

This Platonic idea of transmigration or of successive lives of those
who inhabit this earth has been criticized by various thinkers of
modern times; and referring to this idea the late Doctor Myers, of the
Psychical Research Society of London, writes in his second volume of
"Human Personality": "The simple fact that such was probably the
opinion of both Plato and Virgil shows that there is nothing here
which is alien to the best reason or to the highest instincts of
men. Nor, indeed, is it easy to realize any theory of the _direct
creation_ of spirits at such different stages of advancement as
those which enter upon the earth in the guise of mortal man. There
_must_, one feels, be some kind of continuity--some form of
spiritual past." (P. 134.) Why does He not create all souls equal?
Why will one soul be highly advanced spiritually while another is
entirely ignorant and idiotic? This question cannot be answered, this
problem cannot be solved by the special creation theory, and therefore
Doctor Myers says that there is no doubt that there was some previous
continuity or spiritual past of each individual soul, and therefore he
tacitly admits the theory of Transmigration. Although from a
scientific viewpoint he could not give any direct proof regarding this
idea of a pre-existence of the soul, still he could not deny it
entirely when he said: "The shaping forces which have made our bodies
and our minds what they are may always have been psychical
forces--from the first living slime-speck to the complex intelligences
of to-day." "The old transmigrationist's view would thus possess a
share of truth and the actual man would be the resultant not only of
intermingling heredities on father's and mother's sides, but of
intermingling heredities, one of planetary and one of cosmic scope."
("Human Personality," Vol. II, p. 267.)

But this theory of Transmigration, as described by Plato, is a little
different from a similar theory which existed in India before his
time. In the Platonic idea of transmigration, as we have already seen,
the souls were allowed to choose their own lot according to their
experience or bent of character, but not to receive the natural
consequence of their deeds and misdeeds. Plato did not say anything
about the law which governs souls; but in ancient India the great
thinkers and philosophers explained that each individual soul is bound
by the inexorable law of nature to receive its body as a natural
consequence of its former deeds and misdeeds, and not to have free
choice of its lot according to its bent of character. The great
thinkers and philosophers of ancient India discovered the universal
law of cause and effect, of action and reaction, and called it by the
Sanskrit term "Karma," which means the law of cause and sequence; that
every cause must be followed by an effect of a similar nature, that
every action must produce similar reaction, and conversely every
reaction or effect is the result of an action or cause of a similar
character. Thus there is always a balance and harmony between cause
and effect, between action and reaction. This law of Karma has now
become a fundamental verity of modern science. It is called by
different names: the scientists call it the law of causation, the law
of compensation, the law of retribution, the law of action and
reaction, but they all refer to the same idea,--that every cause must
produce a similar result and every action must produce a similar

Now these ancient thinkers of India applied this law of Karma to
explain the destiny of human souls, and it was upon this law they
based the theory of Transmigration. They maintained that human souls
are bound by this irresistible law and cannot get out of it; their
thoughts and deeds are the causes which produce results of similar
nature. So their future birth does not depend upon their whimsical,
free choice, but it is limited by the thoughts and deeds or misdeeds
of their previous lives. In the Platonic idea we find that the souls
go according to their choice. They may not take a human form if they
prefer an animal form, but in the Hindu idea of transmigration we find
that it is not a result of free choice, but, if our thoughts and deeds
force us to take a particular form, then we are subject to the law of
Karma, which governs our future birth and the evolution of our
souls. Consequently the Hindu theory of Transmigration differs
fundamentally from the Platonic as well as from the Egyptian idea of
Transmigration. In the Platonic and Egyptian theories we see that the
souls, after leaving the body, enter into another body which is
waiting to receive the migrating soul, but in the Hindu theory of
Transmigration the body is not waiting to receive the migrating soul,
but on the contrary the soul, being subject to the laws of evolution,
manufactures the gross material body according to its desires and
tendencies. Just as a germ of life will develop a grosser form by
cellular subdivision, by growth, and by assimilation of the
environmental conditions, so the germ of the human soul will
manufacture the body by obeying the laws which govern the physical
plane. Parents are nothing but the channels through which the
migrating souls receive their material forms. Parents do not create
the souls; they have no power to create. They can only give the
suitable environments necessary for manufacturing a gross physical
body. The souls come with their tendencies, with their desires, and
they remain as germs of life.

Now these germs of life contain vital forces, sense powers, psychic
powers, and ethereal particles of matter. At the time of death the
soul contracts and withdraws all its powers from the sense organs to
its innermost center, and in that contracted state it leaves the
body. But these powers do not leave the soul. By the law of
persistence of force and conservation of energy they remain latent in
that center until environmental conditions become favorable for their
remanifestation. Rebirth means the manifestation of the latent powers
which exist in the germ of life or in the individual soul. These germs
of life are called by different names. Leibnitz called them monads and
modern scientists call them bioplasms or some such name, but the
Vedanta philosophers describe them as subtle bodies. These germs or
subtle bodies are subject to evolution and growth; they arise from
lower to higher stages of development, from the mineral through the
vegetable to the animal kingdom and eventually they become human
beings and then they go on progressing.

In the Platonic theory the idea of progress, growth or gradual
evolution of the soul from the lower to higher stages of existence is
entirely excluded, because, as I have already said, the migrating
substance is of a fixed quantity with fixed qualities, that is, these
qualities do not change and are not affected by either growth or
evolution. They are constant quantities. In order to differentiate
these two ideas we should call the Hindu theory of Transmigration by
the term "Reincarnation." The Hindu or Vedantic theory of
Reincarnation, however, is not the same as the Buddhistic theory of
Rebirth, for the Buddhists do not believe in the permanence of the
soul entity. There is another point where the Reincarnation theory
differs from Platonic transmigration. According to this theory of
Reincarnation there is growth and evolution of each individual soul
from the lower to higher stages of development. The soul or germ of
life, after passing through the lower stages, comes to the human plane
and gains experience and knowledge; and after coming to the human
plane, it does not retrograde to animal bodies. The Platonic theory
teaches that human souls migrate into animal bodies or angelic bodies
and return from the angelic to the human or the animal, and that some
of them prefer to become animals; while the theory of Reincarnation,
taking its stand upon the scientific truth of gradual evolution,
teaches that the human souls have already passed through different
grades of the animal, nay, of the vegetable kingdom, by the natural
process of evolution. After having once received the human organism,
why should a soul choose to go back to the lesser and more imperfect
organism of an animal? How is it possible for a lesser manifestation
to hold a greater one? Why should a greater manifestation choose more
limited forms in preference to those of others? This question arises
in the Platonic theory of Transmigration. Therefore, the Reincarnation
theory, or the theory of Transmigration according to the Hindus,
rejects this idea of the going back of human souls to animal forms.
We have already passed in the evolutionary process through the lower
grade of animal organisms. Now that we have outgrown them why should
we go back to them?

It is true, however, that in India there are many uneducated people
among the Hindus who believe that human souls do migrate into animal
bodies after death to gain experience and reap the results of their
wicked deeds, being bound by the law of Karma; but in the Platonic
theory the law of Karma plays no part in the transmigration of
souls. The educated and thoughtful minds of India, however, accept the
more rational and scientific theory of Reincarnation. Although there
are passages in the scriptural writings of the Hindus which apparently
refer to the retrogression of the human soul into animal nature, still
such passages do not necessarily mean that the souls will be obliged
to take animal bodies. They may live like animals even when they have
human bodies, as we may find among us many people like cats and dogs
and snakes in human form and they are often more vicious than natural
cats, dogs or snakes. They are reaping their own Karma and manifesting
their animal nature, though physically they look like human
beings. This kind of retrogression is possible for one who after
reaching the human plane goes backward on account of wicked thoughts
and deeds on the animal plane. Such a temporary retrogression brings
knowledge and helps it in its onward progress toward the manifestation
of higher powers on the higher plane of consciousness. All the wicked
thoughts and wicked deeds are nothing but the results of our own
mistakes. What is sin? Sin is nothing but a mistake and it proceeds
from ignorance. For instance, if I do not know that fire burns, I may
put my finger into it and get burned. The result of this mistake is
the burning of the finger and this has taught me once for all that
fire burns; I shall never again put my finger into fire. So every
mistake is a great teacher in the long run. No one is born so high
and perfect as not to commit any mistake or any sin. Every mistake
like this opens our eyes to the laws of the universe by bringing to us
such results as we do not desire. As one life is not enough to gain
experience in all the stages of evolution, we must have to admit the
doctrine of the Reincarnation of the soul for the fulfillment of the
ultimate purpose of earthly life. Professor Huxley says: "None but
hasty thinkers will reject it on the ground of inherent absurdity.
Like the doctrine of evolution itself that of transmigration has its
roots in the world of reality."


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