Reincarnation! What Bahá’ís believe…?!

Recently, as I was talking about the afterlife to someone very dear to me, the topic on reincarnation, and the existence of past lives or more than one life in this world, came up in our conversation. That interesting conversation has urged me to share my personal views on this topic with regards to the teachings of my Faith.

There are many mentions of a ‘Return’ in various Divine Scriptures but the view I share about this ‘Return’ is as follows:

Though the fact of “Return” is mentioned in the Divine Books, by this is intended the return of the qualities, characters, perfections, truths and lights, which re-appear in every age, and not of certain persons and souls. For example: If we say this lamp is the return of that of last night, or that the last year’s flower hath returned in the garden, in this sense the return of the individual, or identity, or personality is not meant; nay, rather, it is intended that the same qualities and states existing in that lamp or flower, which are now seen in this lamp or flower, have returned. That is, the same perfections and virtues and properties which existed in the past springtime have returned during this present springtime. For instance: When one says, these fruits are the same as those of last year; in this sense, he hath reference to the freshness and delicacy of the fruit, which hath returned, although there is no doubt that the identical fruit of last year hath not returned.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 392)

In the world of spirit there is no retrogression. The world of mortality is a world of contradictions, of opposites; motion being compulsory everything must either go forward or retreat. In the realm of spirit there is no retreat possible, all movement is bound to be towards a perfect state. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 89)

In simple terms, in the material world, everything must either go forward or retreat. In the spiritual realm there is no retreat possible, all movement is towards a perfect state.

Let’s take a baby in the womb for example. Just as that baby is born into this world, we are also born into the next. That same baby cannot return to the mother’s womb again, nor would he or she benefit from it upon returning.

Had the life and growth of the child in the womb been confined to that condition, then the existence of the child in the womb would have proved utterly abortive and unintelligible; as would the life of this world, were its deeds, actions and their results not to appear in the world to come. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 392)

Just as our physical birth into this world from our mothers, our ‘re-birth’ happens when we are born again from this world of nature into the life of the Divine Kingdom:

Man is first born from a world of darkness, the matrix of the mother, into this physical world of light. In the dark world from whence he came he had no knowledge of the virtues of this existence. He has been liberated from a condition of darkness and brought into a new and spacious realm where there is sunlight, the stars are shining, the moon sheds its radiance, there are beautiful views, gardens of roses, fruits and all the blessings of the present world. How did he attain these blessings? Through the agency of birth from the mother. Just as man has been physically born into this world, he may be reborn from the realm and matrix of nature, for the realm of nature is a condition of animalism, darkness and defect. In this second birth he attains the world of the Kingdom. There he witnesses and realizes that the world of nature is a world of gloom, whereas the Kingdom is a world of radiance; the world of nature is a world of defects, the Kingdom is a realm of perfection; the world of nature is a world without enlightenment, the Kingdom of spiritual humanity is a heaven of illumination. Great discoveries and revelations are now possible for him; he has attained the reality of perception; his circle of understanding is illimitably widened; he views the realities of creation, comprehends the divine bounties and unseals the mystery of phenomena. This is the station which Christ has interpreted as the second birth. He says that just as ye were physically born from the mother into this world, ye must be born again from the mother world of nature into the life of the divine Kingdom.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 332)

Now, allow me to shoot a question to all of you. Why would we want to return to a world filled with calamities, injuries, trials and difficulties? It doesn’t make sense does it?

Think about it! There isn’t a soul alive who lives in such tranquillity in this world, that this is a reward for good deeds in a former life; and no soul is so happy here, that this world is the fruit of his past pain:

Because, when thou lookest with the iron sight, thou wilt find that all mankind is suffering in this earthly world; there is no one in such tranquillity that this state might have been a reward for his good deeds in a former life and there is no soul so happy that this might be the fruit of his past pain! Had the life of a man in his spiritual being been only confined to his life in this world, the creation would have proved useless; the divine qualities would have no result and effect; nay, all things, created beings and the world of creation would have proved abortive. I ask pardon of God for such false imaginations and for such errors!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 392)

If we say that this reincarnation is for acquiring perfections so that matter may become refined and delicate, and that the light of the spirit may be manifest in it with the greatest perfection, this also is mere imagination. For, even supposing we believe in this argument, still change of nature is impossible through renewal and return. The essence of imperfection, by returning, does not become the reality of perfection; complete darkness, by returning, does not become the source of light; the essence of weakness is not transformed into power and might by returning, and an earthly nature does not become a heavenly reality. The tree of Zaqqúm**, no matter how frequently it may come back, will not bring forth sweet fruit, and the good tree, no matter how often it may return, will not bear a bitter fruit. Therefore, it is evident that returning and coming back to the material world does not become the cause of perfection. (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 285)

Nevertheless, the return of material beings with regard to species is evident; so the trees which during former years brought forth leaves, blossoms and fruits in the coming years will bring forth exactly the same leaves, blossoms and fruits. This is called the repetition of species. If anyone makes an objection saying that the leaf, the blossom and the fruit have been decomposed, and have descended from the vegetable world to the mineral world, and again have come back from the mineral world to the vegetable world, and, therefore, there has been a repetition—the answer is that the blossom, the leaf and the fruit of last year were decomposed, and these combined elements were disintegrated and were dispersed in space, and that the particles of the leaf and fruit of last year, after decomposition, have not again become combined, and have not returned. On the contrary, by the composition of new elements, the species has returned. It is the same with the human body, which after decomposition becomes disintegrated, and the elements which composed it are dispersed. If, in like manner, this body should again return from the mineral or vegetable world, it would not have exactly the same composition of elements as the former man. Those elements have been decomposed and dispersed; they are dissipated in this vast space. Afterward, other particles of elements have been combined, and a second body has been formed; it may be that one of the particles of the former individual has entered into the composition of the succeeding individual, but these particles have not been conserved and kept, exactly and completely, without addition or diminution, so that they may be combined again, and from that composition and mingling another individual may come into existence. So it cannot be proved that this body with all its particles has returned; that the former man has become the latter; and that, consequently, there has been repetition; that the spirit also, like the body, has returned; and that after death its essence has come back to this world. (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 284-285)

These are just some of the views that I adhere to and hence, wanted to share it with all of you’ll as well. Please know that l am in no way disregarding your beliefs or being disrespectful to anyone’s view or ideas regarding the topic of reincarnation and the existence of past lives. To each his own! 😉

Happy Weekend to All!!

Your Beautifully Imperfect Nut

** Tree of Zaqqúm **

– A tree of the Infernal Regions –

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