During a recent meditation session, teacher Narayan Helen Liebenson shared that it was Parinirvana Day, the day when the Buddha is said to have achieved complete Nirvana, upon the death of his physical body. She explained that you don’t need to believe in the concept of reincarnation to be a Buddhist. And she talked about the fact that many of us have experienced, often more than once, reincarnation in this life.
I don’t believe that I possess a non-physical essence that will, after my death, begin a new life in a new body. When we die, the atoms of our bodies remain. They continue to be incorporated into other forms of matter, including bodies of people yet to be born. And I don’t believe that anything else remains except perhaps in the hearts and minds of friends and family who are still alive, their descendants, and occasionally an ongoing influence on our culture.
While I don’t believe in traditional reincarnation, I have experienced reincarnation in this life more than once. You probably have too.
What do I mean by reincarnation in this life?
I remember a life history that stretches back to my childhood. But I do not see myself as being the same “person” throughout my life. I’m skeptical about the concept of moments of enlightenment that radically change a person. Yet I can identify distinct periods in my life, and I interpret the transitions between them as a kind of reincarnation of my being.
I describe these phases and their dominant characteristics as:
- Early childhood: being intensely curious and playful.
- Childhood through adolescence: focusing on an intellectual approach to the world, emphasizing thinking over feeling.
- My 20s – 40s: moving toward a more balanced integration of the role of thoughts and feelings in my life.
- My 50s – the present: discovering the primary importance for me of connection with others, coming into my power to create my life, and desiring to use my talents to make a difference in the world I inhabit.
Though there aren’t clear boundaries between these chapters of my life, looking back after each transition I experienced myself as a significantly different person compared to who I was before.
Will I experience another reincarnation during my lifetime? I don’t know and want to stay open to that possibility. Whatever happens, I think the concept of reincarnation in this life is a useful way to think about one’s personal lifetime evolution. Perhaps it will be thought-provoking for you.
Feel free to share your thoughts on reincarnation in this life in the comments below!
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