reincarnation

Old question in a New Age: What does the Bible say about reincarnation?

Old question in a New Age: What does the Bible say about reincarnation?

MARK’S QUESTION:

What does the Bible say bout reincarnation? Was it an esoteric teaching of Jesus that was censored by church councils in the 4th and 5th Centuries?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

According to historians, nothing and no.

Forget pop novels, conspiracy theories about church censorship, or supposed secret knowledge from Jesus. The academic experts say the Bible, and thus Christianity, never taught reincarnation. That’s not to say individual Christians haven’t pondered the idea along with some mystics in Sufi Islam and Judaism’s medieval kabbalah movement.

Some basics on what’s also called transmigration of souls, metempsychosis, or samsara (Sanskrit for “running together”). With certain differences the belief is central for Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism (a synthesis of Hindu elements with Islam’s worship of the one God).

The late Professor J. Bruce Long said the soul’s succession through a series of human or animal lives was often taught by early preliterate cultures, then by certain Egyptian and Greek thinkers, and reached elaborate form in ancient India.

In this developed system “the circumstances of any given lifetime are automatically determined by the net results of good and evil actions in previous existences” through the Law of Karma (meaning “action”). Assessment of each soul’s moral performance is a “universal law of nature that works according to its own inherent necessity,” not judgment by a God or gods.

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When iron birds fly and Chinese leaders ponder the politics of reincarnation ...

When iron birds fly and Chinese leaders ponder the politics of reincarnation ...

Its origin is much disputed, but an often-repeated Tibetan saying goes as follows: "When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the face of the world, and the dharma (Buddhist teachings) will come to the land of the red-faced man."

Because of Chinese occupation, a Tibetan diaspora is indeed scattered across the globe. But are the iron-bird and horse-on-wheels images references to airplanes and automobiles? And what about red-faced men? Is that a reference to Native Americans? As noted, the authenticity of this supposedly ancient prophecy is much in doubt.

Authentic or not, it's undeniable that various Buddhist practices and traditions have found widespread acceptance in the West. The world's best-known Buddhist, Tenzin Gyatso, much better known as the Dalai Lama, a man of gentle demeanor and a contagious laugh, is in good measure responsible for this. He's also the subject of what may be the year's oddest religion news story.

China, in case you missed it, is upset that the Dalai Lama has threatened not to reincarnate. Ponder that for a minute.

While not an entirely new story, it is, on its face, an illogical one.

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