This one does not hold as much immediate import on a day-to-day basis as the last two posts do as far as I am concerned. Because (1) it has to do with transmigration, a subject that, to most, cannot be proven, and (2) even if it could, we don’t control what our next life is to be anyroad. Well, I would argue that we do in fact have a great deal of control over that, though so much of that ability is slipping through our fingers day by day with every single decision we make that we don’t often take the time to realize that we are shaping our eternal future right now.
But this post is just about two words. Reincarnation and Rebirth. I just finished a neat little book called “Buddhism for Dudes” in which the difference was described fairly clearly. As an aside, the book is hardly just for dudes, as the intro tries to claim. There is nothing in it that woman can not find applicable. Just a few anecdotes are more dudecentric, but that is natural, having been written by one. But it also subtitled “A Jarhead’s Field Guide to Mindfulness” when there is really only one major anecdote about mindfulness at war.
The way the book explains reincarnation and rebirth is roughly like this: Reincarnation is like General George S. Patton’s claim that he had and would continue to return as generals in all of the world’s great conflicts.
This assumes there was something essential to his everlasting transmigrating soul that gravitated toward armed conflict. It’s a little like when a baseball fan says someone is “Lou Gehrig incarnate” or a rock n roll fan says someone is “Jimi Hendrix incarnate.” These are a little more specific incarnates than a warrior coming back as a warrior, but you get the idea. An incarnate, it seems, is more of an archetype, rather than an individual jivan, developing and evolving through transmigration.
Rebirth is described as a result of ignorance of our true nature. Our true Self. Rebirth seems to be more the word we are looking for in the Hindu context. Surely our dominating traits in this life determine the next step we take toward moksha, in the next life. Though “reincarnation” as defined above borders on the description of an avatar, assigning attributes like “warrior” to one’s ever-lasting transmigrating soul is just the type of ignorance and ego-attachment really, that results in “rebirth” as defined above.