The Soul’s Journey Through Life, Death and Rebirth

One level of the deep ignorance within which we live and act is our bondage to the specific individual life, personality and situation that we inhabit. We are generally unaware of anything prior to our birth or which occurs after our death. Some even take the view that there is no “meaning” and that birth and death are simply beginning and ending points of a meaningless existence. If that were true, however, we would be left with the question of how and why this enormous mechanism of the universal creation exists and why we need to experience, learn and grow at all.

We occasionally get hints that show there is both a “before” and an “after” and if we reflect on this we begin to recognise that there are patterns that not only justify, but demand the existence of a series of lives for a developing soul, transcending the individual lifetime we have now, and carrying on the stream of consciousness growth that underlies the general evolution of forms and the specific soul-evolution of the psychic being.

Intriguing cases of young children being able to speak languages they have never learned, or bringing highly developed skills into their young lives in particular areas, certainly imply that some souls are able to carry more than the soul-spark with them beyond death and into new birth. In some cases, a person is able to describe a locale in another country, at another time, without ever having any direct contact in this life. Similarly, the reincarnation events of highly advanced Lamas, and their ability to unfailingly recognise implements and people they have experienced in the prior lifetime, provide us further evidence. Those who have a near death experience also come ‘face to face’ with their soul and return in many cases with a new understanding and appreciation of the value and significance of life.

While the soul grows, develops, gathers experiences and understanding from life to life, it does not generally carry with it the burden of its past lives in the form of specific relationships, specific skill sets or specific circumstances. We recognise that a child will play with certain toys, but as it grows, it moves on and leaves the childish pursuits behind to take up new tasks, interests and relations. A similar process takes place as the soul leaves behind one particular lifetime and, with the fruits of its experience in that life, evolves into a next level or phase of its development.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Each person follows in the world his own line of destiny which is determined by his own nature and actions — the meaning and necessity of what happens in a particular life cannot be understood except in the light of the whole course of many lives. But this can be seen by those who can get beyond the ordinary mind and feelings and see things as a whole, that even errors, misfortunes, calamities are steps in the journey, — the soul gathering experience as it passes through and beyond them until it is ripe for the transition which will carry it beyond these things to a higher consciousness and higher life. When one comes to that line of crossing, one has to leave behind one the old mind and feelings. One looks then on those who are still fixed in the pleasures and sorrows of the ordinary world with sympathy and wherever it is possible with spiritual helpfulness, but no longer with attachment. One learns that they are being led through all their stumblings and trusts to the Universal Power that is watching and supporting their existence to do for them whatever is the best. But the one thing that is really important for us is to get into the greater Light and the Divine Union — to turn to the Divine alone, to put our trust there alone whether for ourselves or for others.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 12, Other Aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Rebirth, Karma and Destiny, pp. 343-347

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