Many religions believe in reincarnation or life after death. This especially relates to religions from the eastern world. In general, reincarnation means to have more than one soul and change from one to another when physical death occurs. Even so, the meaning is understandable, most people still have questions to ask on the topic. So in this article, we will summarize beliefs and concepts regarding the major religions around the subject of reincarnation.
Many people wonder “who believes in reincarnation?” as if it were something very unclear. But, it may be interesting to note that, for example, the early Christians also believed in reincarnation.
To prepare this summary of religions that believed in reincarnation, Buddhismzone relied on many reputable sources. Some of these including the work on this subject that David Sentinella wrote in his book “Hereafter.”
Below are the religions that believe in reincarnation and their views.
This is one of the oldest religion. As a result, it deserves first place. Moreover, Shamans believe in the existence of a spirit world. Thus, this world intervenes in our society which they can access. Regarding reincarnation, the issue seems clear. They believe they are spirits, which have come from their homes (the spiritual world). Hence, to occupy their physical bodies. And, to learn along with different lives.
Thus, at the moment of death, the spirit survives and returns to the spiritual world where it meets with the other dead.
Actually, the Celtic Druids believed in the existence of several worlds through which one could travel in different states of consciousness. Consequently, legends were able to communicate with their ancestors. Who believed in the immortal soul or spirit that dwelt within our body.
Also, for the Druids, the reality is the spiritual world as the soul passes through three states:
- First, the animal.
- Secondly, another in which the soul embodies numerous times in different worlds.
- Lastly, the third is a more blissful state in which one lives in peaceful worlds. As such, let go of the body influences and reincarnations come to completion.
Norse mythology shows that the Nordic also believed in reincarnation. Thus, there is evidence that proves the Vikings believed in it.
The Sumerians believed that after death, the soul must endure a difficult journey. Basically, this journey involves reaching a kind of hell where the soul would remain for eternity. Hence, no rebirth or reincarnation.
In Zoroastrianism, the soul remains three days and three nights beside the dead body. During this time, all past actions are presented to the soul in a relentless trial. If the result is negative, the soul will fall to a hellish abyss. At the end of time, there will be a kind of apocalypse in which the good will win. And the dead will rise (like the apocalypse in the Bible).
It is one of the oldest cultures. Eventually, it originated from the people who were taken as slaves from West Africa. Later influenced by Christianity and possibly Celtic polytheist religions.
Thus, in voodooism there are deities. More so, people may communicate with them. In addition, voodoo does not have any fundamental doctrines. However, it supports belief in reincarnation and gives importance to the spirits of dead people.
Judaism is the oldest of the three great monotheistic religions. To them, death means separation of soul and body. That is the passing from a world of appearances, a transit, training, and learning, to a spiritual world that does not depend on the matter (world of truth).
They believe we might not enjoy infinite life. So, they do not officially recognize reincarnation. Even though it appears in the Kabbalah.
Also, the immortality of the soul comes to realization through the resurrection. Even more, some Jewish currents believe in the reincarnation of souls. There, however, does not seem to be hell. But, a place of purification where those who have done wrong remain for a while.
It is significant, however, that in the early days of Christianity, reincarnation was part of the belief. The epistle of James speaks, for example, that our language can put back in motion the wheel of rebirth. Also, there was a mention in the origins of St. Augustine’s reincarnation. Similarly, in the gospels there are more significant references thus:
“In truth, if a man is not a born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”; “It is true, among all the sons of women there is none greater than John the Baptist. And if you want to understand, he is the same Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear “I will send the Comforter. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot know now. However, when He, the spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.”
What is The Understanding of Early Christians On Reincarnation?
Outside the Bible, there is a belief that Jesus and the early Christians believed in reincarnation. The view of Christianity is not that souls reincarnate again and again. But, that they return home.
Definitely, transmigration of souls, however, is not part of the belief. As souls always reincarnate in a new human being.
Was There Any Conflict Concerning Christian Belief?
It was the Emperor Justinian who summoned a synod in Constantinople in 543 that condemned the doctrine of reincarnation (to what the Pope at the time opposed). Nevertheless, the emperor’s personal opinion prevailed. Since in the absence of the Pope. Who did not attend the synod, no one dared to contradict him.
What Are Other Religions Close to Christianity That Believes in Reincarnation?
This is a set of philosophic and religious currents that are close to Christianity of the first centuries. Although, it was later declared heretical. Accordingly, it teaches the separation between matter and spirit. Also, that only through awareness of our spirit. And, of its divine character and the truth about its nature, we can attain salvation.
As a result, some teachings of Gnosticism believed in the cyclical return of souls to the prison of matter through reincarnation. Hereafter, the cycle of rebirths will be broken by the gnosis (the equivalent of enlightenment in Eastern religions).
In reality, Islam believes that death is not a punishment. It is not bad, nor, is its destruction. Instead, it is merely a stage on the road of life. Or a way to another life after the physical resurrection at the end of time.
To them, upon death, a man reaches hereafter. And, his soul remains in an intermediate stage until Judgment Day. Certainly, in the end, he will pass through judgment for his sins. Good and evil deeds will be weighed, and his soul will spend life in heaven or hell.
One of its cornerstones is the reincarnation or samsara. Hence, it believes that a soul evolves through reincarnation according to what good or bad deeds he has done in a previous life (karma).
At death, the soul leaves the body and is brought to trial. According to this balance, it can reincarnate in a higher existence (heaven), lower existence (hell) or intermediate (human life).
Eventually, they believe one can attain a release of the wheel of reincarnation when the soul (through yogic or ascetic practices) becomes wholly evolved. Moreover, with no more karma to “clean” and no need to reincarnate. Therein, the soul unites with the universal soul.
They believe a soul is potentially divine and can reach this goal through severe and purifying practices.
According to its actions, the soul is a subject to the wheel of reincarnation. As a result, it can be reborn with a demonic, animal, human or divine status. More so, the soul loses its omniscience (ability to know everything) because of its corruption, attachment to material things, aggression and lying, etc.
Therefore, to recover its original wisdom, it must get rid of the karma and attain knowledge. Thus, it reaches nirvana where it will be free from suffering.
It is a very ancient religion, which disappeared before Hinduism. Vedism based on the four most ancient texts of India. These texts include the Vedas (Sanskrit, “knowledge”). Generally, they alleged that God communicated the text orally to scholars in the past.
Additionally, the Vedas states the immortality of the soul and its successive reincarnation. They also say that our current situation in life is a consequence of our deeds in previous lives.
Hinduism is more than a religion with sets of beliefs. Thus, Hindus believe in reincarnation or transmigration of the souls. That is, when a person dies, he reincarnates as another being. However, the reincarnation is not necessarily in a human being form (this depends on your karma status, positive or negative). To end this cycle and meet with the universal soul, we must achieve perfection. This means reaching the truth and renouncing to everything else. Thereafter, overcoming the weight of karma.
So, our soul is the reflection of God. It is also God.
Sikhism is a type of Hinduism in which the followers accepted that the soul has to transmigrate from body to body as part of its evolution. This is in order to achieve union with God through the purification of the spirit. If one does not attain the union, it continues reincarnating forever.
Buddhism is a more modern concept of Brahmanism. And, now one of the largest religions of the world. Although, it is instead more of a philosophy. Buddhism offers a way of life where one can end suffering through effort and meditation.
Most noteworthy, reincarnation (or rebirth) is a mainstay of Buddhism. Death, until the soul reaches the nirvana, is only preceding a new reincarnation. Therefore, to escape this wheel of reincarnations, we must get rid of attachments and desires.
All the same, Buddha denied the existence of something permanent in the person as a soul to occupy different bodies. This is what he summarized in his no-soul (Anatman) doctrine. Even at that, Buddhists still accepted reincarnation.
Tibetan Buddhism is a branch of Buddhism that has a sacred book, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”, or Bardo Thodol. Basically, this is a detailed “instruction book” to guide us during death. And, also, throughout the process that follows to reach the next reincarnation. This book is a compilation by many generations of monks, through astral projection. So, they managed to enter the process and get to know it intimately.
Reincarnation became part of Confucianism through the influence of Buddhism. Basically, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are all part of the Chinese tradition. Hence, they say that the Chinese were Confucian to celebrate national holidays. If they were sick, they would summon the Taoist sages who provided healing herbs. And, also connect to the spirits. However, at the end of their life, they would call Buddhist priests who believed in reincarnation.
Initially, they did not believe in life after death. The aim was to achieve knowledge and immortality. Not of the soul, but the physical body.
They believe that spirits inhabit some or all classes of natural objects or phenomena. According to them, the man is an innovation where the spirit resides. It is something that survives the death of the body. And, that is eternal.
Correspondingly, the mitama is the essential part of man that lives forever in the afterlife. Hence, Shinto is a mixture of shamanism. Therefore, they believe in reincarnation as spirits or souls that relate to the living. But, Buddhism now has a heavy influence on their beliefs.
Do the Native American Religions Believe in Reincarnation?
The Aztecs believed that reality was on the other side of death. Hence, the circumstances of death determine the fate of the spirit in the afterlife. So, if someone dies in battle, on the altar of sacrifice, or during childbirth they will join the Way of the Sun in its eternal journey through the heavens.
If the death were by drowning, the soul would go to the Paradise of the Waters, where life was entirely happy.
Are There Other Conditions for Reincarnation?
Other kinds of death involved going to the Land of the Dead where one would endure a dangerous journey. That, if succeeded, the soul would access a coveted and well deserved eternal rest.
Likewise, the Mayans believed that death was a step into a very similar place. As such, the soul goes to the underworld and then is reborn in another human being without keeping any memory of the previous life. Or, the time spent in the underworld.
Last, the Incas believed in life after death, where the dead lived a new life, right next to the gods. And, with the souls of the righteous men. Or, on the other hand, in the hellish world of the dead with evil beings.
What Do Ancient Religions Believe in Reincarnation?
The Greek believed that at death, something became detached from the body and continued an independent life. Thus, something like an ethereal double that one could not touch. However, it could move by itself, think, and desire as well.
That was why Plato described in “Phaedrus” how the human soul, according to the degree of its discovery. Would be born in one type of body or another. Hence, each life is a test where souls attain perfection.
Similarly, the Egyptians did not believe in reincarnation, but resurrection. They believed in life after death however, through a rebirth. What survives is not an intangible or immaterial being. But, the body is reborn, and the soul or spirit re-enters a resurrected physical body. If the gods pass their judgment, it then resides in heaven where there is no pain or suffering. Instead, ecstatic and joyful sensations.
How Do Karma and Dharma Affect Reincarnation?
The Karma and Dharma do not relate to each other. Either Karma or Dharma can have its existence. It is impossible that both can have a life at the same time. If a person dies in Dharma, then there is no birth again. However, if a person dies in karma. Then, there is rebirth according to the karmic effects.
Accordingly, Dharma or religion is an incomplete word and is the most dangerous word invented in the history of humanity. The word which is complete is SWA-DHARMA OR SELF RELIGION. In short, it means to remain within the self. Or to know oneself.
It can also term as self-religion. In this case, there is nothing of caste religion. And, the most beautiful thing is that when a person knows his self-religion, then the karma gets transforms in Akarma. Thus, when Akarma is there, then there is nothing to bind in any way.
Now, the reincarnation is affected by KARMA or Action. In the deepest of soul, when the soul leaves the body, the senses become so weak. As such, the soul becomes the strongest thing at that time.
Then, when a person realizes the present life, he comes in regression of current birth. And, thus, sees the deeds which have been performed by him. So at the final moments, the soul or person has deep spiritual miseries. Because the pains of the body come to an end at the time of death. And a person gets unconscious, but the soul who is conscious forever comes in the astral body.
In short, we see that the belief in reincarnation has been around since ancient shamanism. And, also the Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, Buddhist, and Roman religions. In addition, it is present in most Eastern religions (Vedism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism). The native American, African and Oceanic indigenous faiths are not left out. The belief in reincarnation survived as an unofficial position. This is even within the Judeo-Christian religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). Although, despite not being officially accepted.
Thus, this concludes our article by answering the question about what religions believe in reincarnation. So, if you have been asking yourself, “what does my religion believe about reincarnation?” we hope you have learned a lot about it in this interesting subject.
So basically keep living in the present, keep an eye on the future while learning from the past.