The Futility of
Reincarnation Education

As I write this article, I'm tempted to leave the page blank and publish just the title alone. So as you read this, you can know that that was the real article--this one is merely a result of weakness, of not being able to resist writing.

Something that occurred to me lately, as I pondered the almost infinite variety of body types and how all of them are in the process of getting old--and that the most beautiful person is actually experiencing a 20-year event rather than being something permanent--is that we all choose to live in denial that we are not our bodies. It's more than denial of mortality. It's denial of immortality. Everyone can clearly see that we are not these flesh machines; and everyone experiences, every minute of every day, that they use their body but that they are not, actually, their body. They do, however, experience being the slave of their body--first its desires, and then its limitations and its sufferings. It is this slavery to the body which people--including scientists--interpret as identity with the body. Few stop to think that we have let ourselves in for it--that you can't enjoy the party without paying the piper. You can't reach for the bait without being ensnared in the trap. And I do not except myself from this dilemma.

Now, all of this is mere poetry, if one does not take reincarnation into account. Because, we can't see it happening in one lifetime. Who has a choice? We start out as an infant, and then a toddler, and so-on, and all the while everything and everyone convinces us that we are this body--that we are growing. We are told by kind relatives, "Look how you've grown!" Who questions it?

Well, to be fair, children often--and I do mean often--mention an incident that occurred in a past life "when I was big." If they are ridiculed or patronized, is it any wonder they quickly stop talking about it? I once saw a three-year-old girl get a very sad, wistful expression when asked, as a joke by a strolling magician, whether she was married. She finally answered something in a subdued voice which I couldn't hear over the crowd. When I asked him if he heard what it was she said, he joked, "Who cares?" I'll never know--but the expression, on a child's face, spoke volumes.

So strong an identification could never develop, within the span of just one lifetime, to the degree that people are mesmerized by it and unable to break it even in the face of obvious evidence. Let us suppose, then, that the Eastern teaching is true--that we have lived thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lifetimes, going all the way back into the animal incarnations. In that case, this incredibly strong identification with the body makes sense. It is a habit so deeply entrenched that one cannot see the bottom of the ravine from whence it comes. The only things that can shake it are intense physical suffering, and death itself. Those who have had near-death experiences will testify to this--they report that their fear of death has dissipated.

Now, many things that look like a tragedy have a purpose. I'm not speaking of suffering, but of the identification with the body, itself. There are reasons why it is necessary that people identify strongly with their bodies, until the time is ripe for them to become spiritual seekers of the Truth. We must take this world seriously if we are to learn to act morally. Convince an immoral person that people are not their bodies, and he will start killing them. Here's an interesting thought. If women weren't beautiful, would men fall in love and sign up for a lifetime of work to support a family? If babies weren't cute, would people put up with their crying and their constant demands?

Well, they would--if, and to the extent, that they had lived enough lifetimes to learn a higher love, a love that transcends selfish considerations. But what of the people who are just starting out learning this kind of love? What induces them to sign up for the "classes" in the first place? It's because women are beautiful, men are handsome, sex is pleasurable, babies are cute, and so-on. All of this depends on identification with the body. If it was really understood that the ugliest old man and the most beautiful young woman are exactly the same inside, it would boggle the mind and disrupt this centuries-long learning process. Of course one mind and heart may be beautiful and one may be ugly--but this is a due to the influence of mental impressions, the residue of past-life experiences. This, also, is temporary in the long run, and vascillates from one lifetime to another, as different types of these impressions come to the fore. The soul underneath is the same--it is just as beautiful in everyone. When the mind and heart are purified, they reflect the same soul, which is then understood to be the Universal Soul in everyone. Meanwhile, life teaches us by showing us pure mind/hearts in ugly bodies, and impure mind/hearts in beautiful bodies.

But understanding this takes experience over many lifetimes. Most of us aren't at that stage yet. We have to believe we are our bodies--we have to believe that our loved ones are their bodies. If we did not we would have no incentive to stay in the class.

Into this state of the majority of persons in our society, comes evidence for and teachings about reincarnation. Into this scenario comes someone like myself trying to convince the mass consciousness of the truth of it. And the information, the teaching, is ignored. Because it must be ignored. Because if reincarnation is true, then we are not our bodies. If we are not our bodies, but something more, then not only are the authorities in just about every field dead-wrong (no pun intended), but the very basis of our lives, as we had conceived of them, is wrong. Deeply wrong.

A few people would be relieved. The man who is suffering, who is dying of a terminal illness, would be relieved. The man and woman celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary already know. That husband already knows that his wife is even more beautiful than the day he met her, and while the rest of the world smiles indulgently and thinks "what wonderful poetry, what a nice sentiment," he knows it is quite literal. Basically, all the people that Jesus said were blessed, when he spoke during the Sermon on the Mount, would be relieved. The rest of us would not.

What happens when people don't want to hear something is that they go into denial. Now, is denial a good thing or a bad thing? I am ashamed to say that when I was interning at a hospital, toward the end of my masters counseling program in 1980, I visited a woman who had bone cancer. I used the counseling techniques that I had been taught--"microskills" they called them--to essentially trick her into facing her predicament. Her predicament was that she was rotting away from the inside. I had no right to do this, but I was young, and raw, and I had the idea that denial was always bad, and facing the truth was always good. The staff told me that she had gone into a psychosis--and that when I was away she got better, but whenever I approached she got worse. I denied that it could have anything to do with me. Of course it did. The poor woman was scared to death, and she needed her denial to cope with an overwhelming situation. Where was my compassion? Wherever she is now, I hope that soul can forgive me.

But, when I finally came around to facing the true dynamic, I learned an important lesson. Actually, it was not the first time I had been exposed to this idea. Many years earlier, I had attended a yoga retreat led by Baba Hari Dass. After the retreat there was a question and answer session, and a young woman related her situation about her mother who was in denial about something or other. Hari Dass wrote on his chalk board, "Let her have her denial." I heard it--it was as though I was meant to hear it. But apparently I wasn't ready, because I agreed on the surface, but there I was, some six years later, not heeding it.

And this is why I continue to write the occasional article. I don't expect anyone to hear me, except those who don't need to. But occasionally a key idea will lodge itself in some far corner of someone's mind, only to reinforce a lesson that will be learned some 10 or 20 or 30 years in the future. In fact we are always hearing these "seed" thoughts. If they land on good soil, as Jesus said, they may sprout someday. (What, do you think Jesus was only talking about what we now consider to be the official doctrines of Christianity? Or was he setting forth a universal principle, using an analogy that, I would guess, had been used by rabbi's before him?)

Reincarnation is true alright. And we are not our bodies. But I'm going to stop writing because I'm feeling thirsty and tired. Now, go back and read the real article.

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