Are You Reborn Or Reincarnated?

You can always change…
to be better… and better…
till you become the best.

— Stonepeace | Get Books

At first glance, the words ‘rebirth’ and ‘reincarnation’ do not seem to differ much, if at all. Yet, technically speaking, they are worlds apart. ‘Reincarnation’ has connotations of a fixed entity incarnating time and again across many lifetimes. The common term for such an immortal entity is the ‘soul’, that migrates from one body to another upon the expiry of one’s physical life. This is a concept embraced by Brahminism in the Buddha’s time, which evolved to be Hinduism today. There is however an unresolvable dilemma from adherence to these beliefs… If one has an essence that is incapable of change, how can one truly become a better person? Would one not be ‘fated’ to remain the way one is forever? And if there is such futility, why even speak of the need for spiritual cultivation?

In the Buddhist teachings, teachers and scholars thus prefer to use the word ‘rebirth’ to express ‘re-becoming’, as the Buddha realised and taught that not only from life to life, but from moment to moment too, there is no physically or mentally enduring soul-like entity in all sentient beings. How do we exist then? As continuums of continual change. From this moment to the next, we are fluxing in all manners physically, even if undetected. For example, not a single cell remains static; undergoing growth, ageing, death and renewal instead. We are changing mentally too, with our thoughts about ourselves changing by the end of this sentence, which at least subtly adjusts all other thoughts about everything else. Likewise applies to other physical and mental phenomena in the universe.

Precisely because we can change dynamically, we can spiritually evolve to be better persons, to increase in virtues such as compassion and wisdom, and decrease in faults such as hatred and delusion. However, as change can occur both ways, we might devolve to have less virtues and more faults too. This is why we need mindful and diligent spiritual cultivation. Although we do not have souls, according to the Buddha, we all possess something much more wonderful — Buddha-nature — the constant potential to become Buddhas. Just as Buddhahood transcends the limits of birth and death, mind and matter, Buddha-nature is likewise so. The only difference between us unenlightened beings and the Buddhas is that they have actualised their Buddha-nature fully, while we are learning to do so!

All in Samsara
are of the nature to change.
Only our Buddha-nature
is not subject to change.

Stonepeace | Get Books


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