All of the traditions that came out of India – Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism – center on the idea of reincarnation. This is just as fundamental to Indian mythological thinking as our idea of Judgment, Heaven, and Hell is to our tradition. The notion is that the soul – what I will call the reincarnating monad – puts on bodies and takes them off, over and over again, as a person puts on and removes clothing.
– Joseph Campbell
There is an appearance of a human self here. There may also be the appearance of a soul – an alive presence, personal and impersonal, infinitely wise and kind (and this soul may reincarnate in other bodies after this one, or not). And there is identification with (or as) this human self, with this soul, or a softening and release of this identification. It’s all reality appearing as a human self, a soul, identification or softening/absence of identification. It’s all the play of reality.
I am a human self. I am (my name). I am (gender). I am (age). I am (role in family, society). I am (personal characteristics).
And if there is a sense of the soul – this alive presence, infinitely kind and wise: I am this soul.
Death is real. Death is…. (make a list).
What do I find when I take these stories to inquiry?
What I am most afraid of about death is…. (Make a list. Then turn each one around to what I am most afraid of about life is… and find examples where that’s true. These can in turn be taken to inquiry.)
What I am most afraid of about reincarnation is…. (Make a list. Then turn each one around to what I am most afraid of about life is… and find examples where that’s true. These can in turn be taken to inquiry.)
– 0 –
What I am most afraid of about death is….
I will suffer. I will be judged. I will have failed in life.
I will have to live another life. I will suffer. I will be confused and lost.
What I am most afraid of about life is…
I will suffer.
Yes, that’s true. I am afraid of suffering itself, and of what I imagine will make me suffer: confusion, pain, mistakes.
And so on.
– 0 –
What I am most afraid of about reincarnation is….
It will never end. I will continue to be confused and suffer. I will be lost.
I don’t have control.
– 0 –
It’s interesting how we see this human self, the soul, and also awareness.
If there is a strong identification with/as this human self (the images of this human self), then it may seem that I have a soul and awareness. I may experience or sense the soul, and awareness is clearly here, and yet it’s somehow not quite me. It’s a bit puzzling perhaps.
If there is identification as the soul – as the alive presence (infinitely kind and wise, personal and yet clearly related to Spirit) – then there may be a sense that I am this human self and the soul, or that I am the soul and have a body & psyche. Here too, awareness is something I have, yet it’s not quite me. Again, it’s a bit puzzling.
When identification is mostly centered on the human self or the soul, awareness makes up a background which is not quite me or I. It almost appears as an appendix. And that does seem a bit puzzling. What’s the relationship between me/I and awareness?
In terms of reincarnation, then I am this human self, and my soul reincarnates into another body (if there is identification with the images of this human self), or I have this body now and will have another later on (if there is identification with the images of the soul).
What’s puzzling too is that this human self and the soul come and go in awareness. Sometimes, the human self is clearly here, other times – as in dreams – it may be gone entirely or replaced with another being. Sometimes, the alive presence is clearly here – with its infinite kindness and wisdom, other times, it appears to be gone. As with any other content of awareness, this human self and the soul presence come and go. That’s it’s nature. It’s the job of any experience to come and go.
What’s left? What’s always here? Am I what comes and goes, or what any experience happens within and as?
If identification shifts into awareness itself, then there may be a more clear sense that this human self comes and goes in awareness, as does the alive soul presence. The sense of an “I” doesn’t quite apply here. An “I” is identification with and as an image, for instance of a doer/observer, and these too – identifications and images – come and go within/as awareness.
And yet, there may still be a sense of “I” there. There may be an identification with the image of awareness. As this releases, what’s revealed is capacity. Capacity for awareness and whatever happens within/as awareness. Capacity appears as awareness and whatever happens within/as awareness.
Note: I tend to not use the word “consciousness” since it’s sometimes used (mostly in western philosophy and psychology?) to refer to the psyche – thoughts, feelings etc.