“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
The body of an adult is different from the body of a child. How so? In the healthy adult, there is the ability to walk. The adult can talk, drive a car, act on choices in travel, and even write down their thoughts. The young child has the potential to do these things, but the ability is not there yet. They need to learn how to crawl first, then walk, and in the process speak a few words. Indeed, the difference between the two bodies is development, which means change.
This development, which occurs over time, proves that there is a constant force within. Since the individual remains the same, the body cannot identify them. Ability has no bearing on who they are. It may change how they live, how much or how little they enjoy, what they do on a daily basis, but it doesn’t define their existence.
The constant force within is the principal subject matter of the spiritual science. The difference between body and spirit is the introductory teaching to what is known as Vedanta. This is the end of knowledge, the conclusion of conclusions. This difference is so important that it is presented at the outset. Before you learn about to whom to surrender, what rituals to practice, where you will go in the afterlife – know this fundamental truth. As a standalone it explains so much.
Rafael was questioned about this one day in an email from his friend. The friend did not understand reincarnation, thinking it to be a myth that could not be proven. After all, if we can’t remember our previous lives, how do we know they happened? In response, Rafael mentioned the changing bodies concept, which is described nicely in the Bhagavad-gita. To help get his point across, he brought up a story from his youth.
I understand what you’re saying about the evidence for the past lives thing. I mean how do I know that I lived before? I don’t have any physical evidence. There is no certificate of authenticity. There is no authority to consult who saw the actual movement of the soul. But actually, there is one authority whose word is spotless. He is the origin of the spiritual science since He is the creator of the material world. The spiritual science is only applicable in a world of dichotomy, where there is a difference between matter and spirit. He says that a person carries their conceptions from one lifetime to another, as the air carries aromas.
Even without consulting His authority, you can get evidence of the changing bodies right now. The changing bodies is a better way to understand reincarnation. Past, present and future lives are only relative to time. The individual exists always; we just identify differently based on external features.
You know how much I like to play tennis. I’ll never forget something that happened during my high school playing career. In my freshmen year we were competing against another school and I was pitted against another freshmen. This was out of the ordinary for me, since there usually weren’t many freshmen on the varsity teams. This meant the people I played were typically older than me. Anyway, I had a comfortable victory against this player. Their serve was weak and erratic. They didn’t run very well. I was able to dominate from the baseline.
Fast forward three years and now I’m a senior. We play the same school and I’m pitted against a senior. This guy is pretty good. He’s got a monster serve. He moves around the court like a dancer. He doesn’t miss a shot either; I can’t get a winner past him. At the end of the match we chat for a little bit. I was wondering why I had never seen him before. He then tells me that he has been at the school for four years and remembers playing me three years ago. In fact, this was the same person I had beaten handily the first time. His abilities improved and, of course, through growth his appearance also changed. It was to the point that he was unrecognizable.
The person is the same in both instances. You can say they have gone through reincarnation and you wouldn’t be wrong. Their body has changed. Their ability has as well. This means that ability does not determine the type of spirit, either. This idea of a separate soul for a human being and a separate soul for an animal is preposterous. The soul is the soul. The bodies can be different. Sometimes the individual has control over how the body changes and sometimes they don’t. I can lose or gain weight if I choose, but I can do nothing to stop old age. The animal gets the type of body that does not have a high potential for intelligence; but this doesn’t mean they are less of an individual than a human being.
Anyway, I don’t mean to keep lecturing on and on, but I think the reincarnation thing is very easy to understand. It’s important to know, too. It marks the real entry into spiritual life. Like learning basic addition and subtraction in school is necessary for advancing to algebra, geometry and calculus later on, if you want to know God the person and the purpose for this creation, you have to know the difference between matter and spirit. You have to know the eternality of spirit, how it is the same in quality within all species.
Early in career against opponent played,
Victory coming easy, not much skill displayed.
Years later then change coming,
A different player totally becoming.
But the person remaining the same,
Just a different type of body to gain.
Explanation for reincarnation this way one,
Know this or have advancement none.