Comparing the Buddhist and Vedantic Views of Rebirth

Both the Buddhist and the Vedantic approach agree that the individual consistent personality is essentially impermanent and a temporary formation, and that therefore it is not something that survives and is “reborn”. Sri Aurobindo describes the process: “There is a constant reforming of personality in new bodies, but this personality is a mutable creation of force at work streaming forward in Time and never for a moment the same, and the ego-sense that makes us cling to the life of the body and believe readily that it is the same idea and form, that it is John Robinson who is reborn as Sidi Hossain, is a creation of the mentality. Achilles was not reborn as Alexander, but the stream of force in its works which created the momentarily changing mind and body of Achilles flowed on and created the momentarily changing mind and body of Alexander.”

Thus far, there is general accord between the two views. The Vedantic view diverges in terms of what it is that “survives” and whether there is something other than simply the movement of a stream of energy. “Still, said the ancient Vedanta, there is yet something beyond this force in action, Master of it, one who makes it create for him new names and forms, and that is the Self, the Purusha, the Man, the Real Person. The ego-sense is only its distorted image reflected int he flowing stream of embodied mentality.”

Thus, for either approach, the individual egoistic personality is not essential real or immortal. The personality any of us experiences in this lifetime is a temporary structure built up by the ego-sense for a transitory need and is not intended to survive eternity. Nevertheless, for the Vedantic approach, there is something that creates, uses and exceeds each of these individual forms.

Sri Aurobindo,

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