February 2017 By TA Balasubrramanian Karma and Reincarnation (Contemporary researches in Hindu Philosophy & Religion) by Muni Narayan Prasad DK Printworld, Paperback, Rs140, 108 pages This is a typical commentary on a passage from the Upanishads by the author, Swami Muni Narayana Prasad. He is the head of Narayana Gurukula, a guru-disciple foundation that is open to all people.A goldsmith takes a piece of gold, and gives it a newer, more beautiful shape. The former gold shape that disappears, and the new one that appears stand for the changeful, visible forms or bodies assumed by Reality. Gold stands for Reality – which was never born, and which will never die. This Reality is not a soul hiding somewhere in your body – it is the all-pervading content in all bodies. The visible form of a gold piece may be altered any number of times without altering its inner content. Likewise, in reincarnation, the same Self-Reality endures forever, while the older forms assumed become transformed into newer ones. This change of form happens because of the inner creative urge for becoming inherent in Reality – that urge is called karma in the Bhagavad Gita.” The notions of karma and reincarnation are inherent in many Eastern spiritual traditions. According to several schools of these spiritual teachings, the goal of life, for ordinary mortals, is to be mindful of their karmic inheritance (from previous lives) in such a way as to eventually set themselves free from an endless cycle of rebirths. Many of the scriptural stories hint at a Reality that manifests itself as a multiplicity of forms – specifically as human forms in the flesh – that appears at some point as a birth, and seemingly disappears at another point as a death. What is mysterious to most “unenlightened” human beings, however, is the nature of this Reality. What ordinary mortals wish to know is whether there is such a thing as an afterlife, and whether the manifestation of Reality (called atman or soul or spirit or some other name) will be reincarnated in some other body. And is this Reality personal to each one of us, or is there just one common universal Reality (or Brahman, according to the discourses on Vedanta) that manifests in numerous forms? This treatise is a lucid guide (in nine chapters) for those who seek to explore the (often esoteric) explanations of karma and reincarnation in various scriptures. In the concluding chapter, the author brings together the threads from his various explorations in the book’s earlier chapters. He asserts that the ultimate Reality is the same for both ajnanis (those who have no direct knowledge of Reality) and jnanis (the “enlightened” ones who know Reality directly). Only ajnanis mistake “the ever changing appearances of the physical world for Reality.” In contrast, jnanis do not see themselves as separated from the one common universal Reality, and they live untroubled lives, aware that ”I am the Reality which was never born and which will never die.
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