Apr 28, 2019
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Many Hindus believe in reincarnation without understanding what it means. According to advaita, reincarnation does not mean that the ever-free Atman ever transmigrates. Atman (Self) is ever-pure and ever-free. Man, in reality, is Atman. But he identifies with the gross body, subtle body or the casual body and remains bound. By non-identification with these, one becomes liberated. On death, the gross body falls off. The physical gross body is thrown off like changing clothes. Atman is never born or is it ever slain. It is only the subtle body which stores the desires, hopes etc. which transmigrates from one birth to another. Only the subtle body enjoys the fruits of the action in the physical world in the heaven or hell. However, advaita (and vedanta in general) does not believe in the *reality* of a special "afterlife" on heaven, hell.
Every one of us seeks happiness. While some may seek happiness by relying on outside things, I have found that it simply does not work (in my case). Living without expecting a "desired result" and thus being indifferent to both pain and pleasure, while continuing to be compassionate to every one is my definition of happiness. It is my philosophy that pain and pleasure are just two sides to the same coin.

If you define reincarnation as the birth of a new thought and the extinguishment of an old thought (which continues irrespective of the physical body), and define heaven and hell as the peace of mind and turmoil of mind, respectively, then I believe in rebirth, heaven and hell. After all, where does the heaven and hell exist apart from the reality created by the mind. The body-mind and the ego will live long as it is desired. It is not important that they live long or enjoy or suffer because we are not them. Further, I feel that we should not spend time worrying or even thinking about the past or future rebirths. We should find out who we really are in this birth itself, instead of worrying about future rebirths. Even great saints like Ramana Maharshi have emphasized this. His words 'What makes you think you are born now ?' ring so true. If we identify with the Atman, what makes us think we were born since the Atman was never born. It is only because of our misidentification that we think we have a body, a mind, and undergo rebirths. We always are the ever-free Atman.

The past influences the future, and the only control we realistically have is the present. Let us live in the now forgetting about the future or the past.

Let me quote the famous sanskrit poem,

Look to this day, for it is Life.
For Yesterday is already a Dream,
and Tomorrow is only a Vision.
But, Today,
Well lived, makes every Yesterday
a Dream of Happiness,
and every Tomorrow,
a Vision of Hope.

and the english saying,

Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is mystery
Now is the present
-- Accept the gift.

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