Early Christians, for the first three hundred years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, believed in reincarnation – or at least maintained an openness to the concept. Then, one of the early church councils decided to condemn belief in reincarnation. Christians were no longer allowed to hold such a belief. If they persisted in their belief, they were branded as heretics.
In my opinion, this change in doctrine was all about power and control over the people. The church hierarchy didn’t want people putting off repentance from sinful ways, thinking they could just wait to become “good” and “holy” in their next life. People were taught to believe they have only one life – so they’d better get it “right” NOW – otherwise, spend eternity in the fires of hell.
I’ve always believed in reincarnation. As a teen, I read several books on the topic and always sensed they were speaking truth. In high school (Catholic school!), I did a presentation on the topic of reincarnation. I still remember how fired-up I was about it. The presentation was supposed to be five to ten minutes, but I went on for twenty. My classmates seemed interested and asked many intriguing questions.
Then, for many years, I forced myself to stop believing in reincarnation because I knew Christians weren’t supposed to believe – and I wanted to be a “good” Christian. I eventually returned to belief because I needed to be true to what seemed correct to me.
At first, this return to belief in reincarnation brought me no comfort. I’ve always been very sensitive to the pain and suffering people endure in this life. The pain far outweighs the pleasure or joy, in my opinion. As Buddha taught, “Life is suffering” – or unsatisfactoriness.
For me, the thought of having to return to this world over and over again is worse than enduring hell for eternity! Yet I understand (and believe) that our karma and unfulfilled desires cause us to be reborn in a new body – to give us more time to work out the effects of our past karmas (actions) and to experience the things we desired but couldn’t have in the past.
The only way to become free of the ongoing cycles of rebirth is to purify all the effects of our past karmas (good and bad, helpful and harmful) and to be in a place (mentally and spiritually) where we no longer desire anything this world has to offer – when we no longer say, “If only I could, if only I had, etc.” We must get to the point where we can die in peace, without even the tiniest regrets or the faintest unfulfilled desires.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – where I will share how reincarnation now gives me a sense of relief, patience, peace and hope.