In order to gain a true understanding of the process and meaning of rebirth, we first need to come to some understanding of what in fact is being reborn. If it is not, as we have been reviewing, the individual personality that survives from life to life, then what is it?
Sri Aurobindo discusses this issue: “Is it then the Self that incarnates and reincarnates? But the Self is imperishable, immutable, unborn, undying. The Self is not born and does not exist in the body; rather the body is born and exists in the Self. For the Self is one everywhere,– in all bodies, we say, but really it is not confined and parcelled out in different bodies except as the all-constituting ether seems to be formed into different objects and is in a sense in them.”
Because we tend to evalute things from the standpoint of our individual body and personal awareness, we actually confuse the facts of what is occurring. This is similar to our confusion about the sun rising and setting with the earth as the center, when in fact, we now recognize this to be an erroneous interpretation of what is actually taking place. When we look at the process of birth and death, we describe it as the soul “inhabiting” the body or the soul “departing” from the body. But it is more correct to refer to this process as the Soul taking on a bodily form, and the Soul casting off the bodily form.
When we are born, some form of awareness enters into and enlivens the body. When we die, this awareness departs. This awareness creates a sense of individuality, the personality, the ego-sense, but even in the vital levels of the plant and animal we still see something that “animates” the physical matter and which is absent when that physical shell dies or dissolves. Sri Aurobindo provides us an answer to this question, while pointing out that this does not solve the larger question as of yet: “It is the subtle or psychical frame which is tied to the physical by the heart-strings, by the cords of life-force, of nervous energy which have been woven into every physical fibre.”
Clearly there must be some over-arching consciousness which creates these mutable forms of personality. The solution must still be sought if we are going to truly understand the reality of the process and its significance.