Globally over one billion Hindus believe in karma and reincarnation. This book examines these two inter-dependent principles. Part I deals with the principle of karma, examining how our past and present karmas affect our present and future lives. Part II discusses reincarnation with examples from the shastras and those discovered by researchers studying children who remember past lives, alongwith evidence of birthmarks, déjà vu and xenoglossy. Finally it cites injunctions of the shastras of Sanatan Dharma about how one can transcend the miserable and perpetual cycle of rebirth.
There are several new features in this second edition. First, it has been rendered into colour. Second, is the inclusion of mystical sketches and an oil on canvas by a sadhu of BAPS, Sadhu Narayanprasaddas, who has earned a prestigious place in 500 Greatest Geniuses of the 21st Century and Great Minds of the 21st Century, for his lifetime dedicated to mystical paintings.
The third feature is the creation of Part III – Reincarnation in BAPS. This was deemed necessary to appreciate the amazing past life accounts of a six-year-old boy, Janmejay Sutaria, born in a BAPS family in Gujarat, India. After the first edition in 2009, his grandmother sent a letter to Swaminarayan Aksharpith about Janmejay’s past life recall. A few sadhus of BAPS, including the author, listened to his account on several occasions. Then it was decided to video record his accounts. He was then also taken to the mandirs where he claimed to have lived in the previous life. To appreciate his intriguing and compelling video accounts, they have been presented in dialogue form without editing, but omitting repetitious descriptions.
Another new inclusion is the case of five-year-old Parth Modi, who exhibits xenoglossy, speaking Hindi despite birth in a Gujarati family residing in Gujarat (see p. 76).
Ne questions sent by readers have been included in the FAQs. Finally, three new appendices have been added; 1. Prayashchitta, 2. Yogiji Maharaj’s parable on karma, 3. Bhakti riturals in daily living to combat karma.
One billion Hindus globally believe in karma and reincarnation. They constitute the largest number, followed by Buddhists. People of other traditions also believe in rebirth. There are some who do not follow any particular religion, yet still believe in reincarnation. In the West, people are increasingly charmed by this concept.
In 1978, a poll by the TV network Rede Globo found that 78 percent of Brazilians believed in reincarnation. A Gallup Poll in 2001 showed that 25 percent of Americans believed in reincarnation. According to a survey in 1997 in the UK, 24 percent believed in reincarnation. The Austrian scientist and thinker, Rudolf Steiner observes, “Just as an age was once ready to receive the Copernican theory of the universe [of the Earth revolving around the sun], so is our own age ready for the ideas of reincarnation and karma to be brought into the general consciousness of humanity.” Henry David Thoreau called the belief as “An instinct of the race”. Voltaire declared, “After all, it is no more surprising to be born twice than it is to be born once.”
One field of scientific research investigating reincarnation emerged in the late 1950s, whose subjects were children. Dr Ian Stevenson, the foremost researcher in this field, observed, “…The most promising evidence bearing on reincarnation seems to come from the spontaneous cases, especially among children.” His research in discussed in chapters 13 and 14.
Karma and reincarnation form two of the four foundational principles of Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism). The others are Avatarvad and Murti Puja. Avatarvad is the belief that the Supreme Reality sends His avatars on Earth or descends Himself to eradicate evil, establish dharma and fulfil the devotional aspirations of His devotees. Murti Puja is the worship of one Supreme Reality through His many forms in the form of murtis (images and deities).
This book deals with the Hindu perspective of karma in Part I and reincarnation in Part II. The working of both principles besides being intriguing, offers plausible answers to many of life’s apparent disparities, injustices and peculiarities. These profound answers are based on the testimony of avatars and seers such as Bhagwan Veda Vyas, Yajnavalkya Rishi, Manu, Narad, Bhagwan Shri Rama, Bhagwan Shri Krishna, Bhagwan Swaminarayan and many mystics through the ages. Their revelations, found in the shastras, are considered authoritative and the final word regarding the two principles. As such, their injunctions are held sacred.
Today, when every concept is scrutinized on a scientific basis, when psychologists psycho-analyse metaphysical concepts, an important question arises. How true are these analyses? For one, these analytical methods are constructs of human minds which themselves vary from individual to individual. Secondly, these psychologists were certainly not mystics who had realized the concepts they espoused. Therein lies the fundamental difference between scientific concepts sprung from human minds and eternal truths revealed by avatars and rishis. They were true darshaniks- those who had realized the truth and could see the actual process of karma and reincarnation. This will become apparent from examples cited in this book.
Young Hindus worldwide, nurtured in the scientific spirit, may not accept these traditional principles handed down by the seers solely on faith. Therefore this book approaches the two principles from the viewpoint of traditional beliefs and that of scientific evidence to support these beliefs.
It is worth noting that these two principles of Hinduism provide satisfactory answers to many of life’s dilemmas. The following are examples of such enigmas for which the two principles provide answers:
• Can gook karmas eradicate our bad karmas? Even of past lives?
• If one’s life is pre-determined, what is the need to perform good karmas?
• If a student is destined to become an engineer, doctor, etc., why should one study?
• What is the destiny of a baby who dies soon after birth, since he/she has not had a chance to perform any good karmas to uplift him/herself spiritually?
• Why do bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people?
• Does Paramatma play a role in shaping karma or is it an independent infallible law of nature like Newton’s law of gravity?
• Why is there such inequality in the world such as the rich getting richer and the poor poorer?
• Do karmas of past lives affect us in this birth?
• Why do natural calamities occur?
• Are all victims of disasters destined to die at the same time?
• Do good karmas play a role in deciding our next birth?
• What is the relationship between karma and reincarnation?
• Why are we born?
• What is the goal of life and a human birth?
• Does life begin at birth and end at death?
• Does death mean the end of life or is it a doorway to begin another life?
• Is this our first birth or have we been born previously?
• Are we continually reincarnation or is there an end to it?
• Are we able to choose our next birth?
• Are we born as animals in our next birth?
• What is the reason for the variety, disparities, peculiarities and painful course of events during man’s life on Earth?
In this manner, karma and reincarnation in Hinduism are interlinked and provide a fascinating study. Some of their concepts are occasionally profound to understand. Nonetheless, the discussion has been simplified to a large extent without compromising on the mode of functioning. Admittedly, every single parameter cannot be simplified for young Hindus, just as quantum physics cannot be understood by everybody. A basic understanding of Hindu philosophy is certainly needed. The same is true of philosophical terms, which have been retained, to avoid using their long-winded English equivalents. An example is Runanubandh instead of ‘bond of debts’. A glossary is provided at the end of the book to help the reader.
Young Hindus are requested to approach this book with an open mind, based on faith in our shastras and the spiritual guru, rather than reading it with a sceptical mind. This is similar to Dr Ian Stevenson’s experience during his research on reincarnation. In the West, people often asked him, “Why are you spending money to study reincarnation when we know it is impossible?” In the East they said, “Why are you spending money to study reincarnation when we know it’s a fact?” (Shroder 1999:140)
This does not mean that one should accept everything blindly. Chapters 13 and 14 discuss evidence of scientific research by Dr Stevenson and others. This is meant to boost and strengthen the beliefs of young Hindus, to develop greater faith in the revelations and injunctions of the ancient seers of Sanatan Dharma. By practising these beliefs, they will be able to understand life on Earth in all its complexity. The greater benefits will be on an inner level in their personal lives. They will be able to cope better with stressors and appreciate the purpose of this unique human birth graced by Paramatma and thus respect and live in harmony and peace with mankind and all other forms of life.
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