Utility

Reincarnation As Organic Metaphor, an Essay

 
The philosophical generosity that birthed the Vedic spirit is completely absent in today’s world. Our world culture has become religiously self-righteous and utilitarian. The view that spiritual realization arises as a gift from nature, a flowering of various invisible, organic processes, has vanished.

Judeo-Christian-Islamic theologies assert the existence of a God separate from nature. Accordingly, they tell us that the world was created for a two-fold purpose, first to glorify this transcendent, separate God, and second to redeem the human race in time and space. However, this view is dualistic in nature and ultimately incorrect, for nature does not exist in linear time. Nature’s time is cyclical. An apple tree produces apples year after year without any ultimate purpose other than the joy of fruition. Nature’s functioning is not teleological. Humans tend to hyper-intellectualize, projecting purposes onto other life forms. They freeze the fluidity of life into rational concepts. Judeo-Christian-Islamic dualistic theologies have devastatingly stained the spiritual fabric of our world.

Reincarnation is a charming, sensuous metaphor for organic life in migration. Rebirth was not meant to create the impression of a linear march (of births) through time. Instead it pointed to the world as fertile soil in which human beings might flourish. The ancient Vedic rishis, or seers, were ardent lovers of nature – even nature-worshippers. In the natural world they saw the “reason” for existence, filled as it was with spontaneous displays of overwhelming beauty. Skies, seas, mountains, fragrances of sweet flowers, were meant to lift the human spirit into supra-sensual ecstasies. Perceptual, emotional, and mental faculties were spiritually stimulated by natural phenomena. Knowledge and devotion were like strings on a guitar, fusing into the melodic rhythm of the total human being. Lila, the spirit of playfulness, the self-generating power seen in nature, was the universe’s matrix, the ultimate “reason” for its existence.

Evolution allows the soul’s maturation through time, carried by the force of desire. Just as a flower requires sunlight to live and grow, human beings blossom through yearning. Desire is not a dirty word, as certain spiritual traditions insist. Desire’s force serves the expansion of human consciousness as it matures and deepens into a painful hunger for God, culminating in moksha, spiritual liberation. Liberation or moksha x`is actually desire’s fruition, not its negation.

The yogas of karma, jnana, bhakti, and raja were the spiritual paths of action, discrimination, devotion, and meditation. They conveyed a theme of adapting any and every form of human activity into the Self or pure consciousness. These spiritual paths affirmed compassionately that any type of person could awaken from dualistic experience, and evolve from the waking state to unlimited Brahman consciousness.

Samsara often referred to as the wheel of birth and death, the field in which transmigration occurs, literally meant “running together,” or “wandering.” Samsara referred to living movement, like that of a meandering river. This non-mechanistic image starkly contradicts the guilt-ridden idea of rebirth as retribution. It nullifies the cold notion of physical embodiment as a mechanical exercise carried out by the indifferent principle of cause and effect. Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic, utilitarian theologies seeped into the fabric of Hinduism over the centuries, tainting its immaculate, highly metaphorical, notion of rebirth.

The rebirth process was carried out by the vasanas, infinitely subtle, wave-like energy patterns. Vasanas transmigrated from body to body, bridging incarnations. Curiously, the word vasana comes from the root VAS, which means “to perfume.” A human being “perfumed” from body to body. Vasanas, trans-fleshly fragrances, organic blueprints of matter and psyche, were the potentialities of consciousness, acting to transform matter into energy, and vice versa. A reincarnated human being was hardly considered a heap of residual, karmic debris. He was a floating fragrance, evanescent as a wisp of air, seeking a proper nervous system, one that would in-breathe him into human form.

This ethereal view of rebirth may sound effeminate and oversimplified in today’s overly patriarchal spiritual climate. A circular, self-generating reality cannot be grasped by a mind obsessed with purposes. Reincarnation, organically understood through metaphors, exasperates the strategies of the rational mind to obliterate a spontaneous ontology. Only a mind freed from utilitarian consciousness can grasp the reality of a purposeless existence. Time, space, and nature vibrate as webs of energetic frequencies, organic nexuses through which living forms grow. These frequencies may be grasped intuitively by a poetically liberated awareness.

The ancient Vedic understanding of reincarnation remains a brilliant, liberating, and life-affirming metaphor, vivified in an aboriginal, spiritual innocence, solidifying a vast, organic, evolutionary process.