18 Pages


Traditional Western conceptions of immortality characteristically presume that we come into existence at a particular time (birth or conception), live out our earthly span and then die. According to some, our death may then be followed by a deathless post-mortem existence. In other words, it is assumed that (i) weare born only once and die only once; and (ii) that - atleastonsome accounts - we arefuture-sempiternal creatures. The Western secular tradition affirms at least (i); the Western religious tradition - Christianity, Judaism, Islam - generally affirms both (i) and (ii). The Indian tradition, however, typically denies both (i) and (ii). That is, it maintains both that we all have pre-existed beginninglessly, and that we have lived many times before and must live many times again in this world. The Indian picture, then, is that we have died and been reborn innumerable times previous to this life and (failing our undertaking some spiritual discipline) we will be reborn many times in the future. This is sometimes called the Indian beliefin reincarnation. The difficulty with this usage is that the term' reincarnation' suggests a belief in an immortal soul that transmigrates or reincarnates. However Buddhism, while affirming rebirth, specifically denies the existence of an eternal soul. Thus the term' rebirth' is preferable for referring to the generally espoused Indian doctrine.