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Around 25% Americans believe in reincarnation, and one out of ten claim to have experienced memories related to past life.

The word reincarnation literally means "entering the flesh again". It has caught the fancy of many around the world. The possibility that death is not the end, there's more, a second chance, makes the concept of reincarnation so fascinating to most.

But is it real? Is there any scientific explanation for reincarnation? What about some real-life accounts? And what do most religions say about reincarnation? Find answers to all these questions, and many more, in this Buzzle article.

What is Reincarnation?

According to the concept of reincarnation, our soul is immortal, and it keeps traveling through different vessels, that is, our body, till it reaches its ultimate goal, which is liberation. After death, we let go of that body and get into another one, to fulfill our desires. Our body is like a costume we wear, we remove it when we die to adorn another one in next life. The only constant factor is our soul, the non-physical part of us. A simple way to put it would be, death is not the end, there's another chance.

Afterlife or life after death is the concept of a realm in which an essential part of an individual's identity or consciousness continues to exist even after his death. It may be in the form of a soul or spirit, or the individual may be reborn into another living form. The embodiment of the spirit into a new form is known as reincarnation. According to this concept, an individual's spirit can begin a new life in a new body after the biological death of that individual.

What Religions Say

Hinduism
Reincarnation is an integral belief in Hinduism. It is called punarjanma. Our soul or atma is bound to the physical world due to desires. Unless, we let go of all the materialistic desires and acknowledge our true existence, as an energy, our soul will be stuck in a cycle of life and death. We can find liberation or moksha, a final release once we let go of everything and be true with the divine. Karma is also very important in Hinduism. How we are born in the next life is entirely dependent on our deeds in this life. And, every person will get what he/she deserves, whether good or bad.

Chapter 2, verse 20 of the Bhagwad Gita says that, "The soul never takes birth and never dies at any time nor does it come into being again when the body is created. The soul is birthless, eternal, imperishable, and timeless and is never terminated when the body is terminated." Verse 22 of the same chapter says that, "As a person gives up old and worn out garments and accepts new apparel, similarly the embodied soul giving up old and worn out bodies verily accepts new bodies."


Buddhism
Reincarnation is strongly believed in Buddhism as well. Just like moksha in Hinduism, the concept of Nirvana exists in Buddhism. It simply means the end of all desires and cravings. Buddhism gives a lot of importance to karma. As long as your karma transcends life, you will be caught up in a cycle of births. Every man should be aware of his actions, because karma is nothing but a reaction to all your actions throughout life. As long as there are desires and materialistic expectations, a person will continue to reincarnate. When all the desires are extinct, man transcends these physical boundaries, and unifies with the divine to attain Nirvana.


Christianity
Christianity has a strong belief in heaven and hell. Catholic church also believes in purgatory, a third realm in which an impure soul is out to cleanse and pay for sins. So the good ones go to heaven and impure souls go to hell or purgatory. The concept of reincarnation is not accepted by most Christians, although there are certain groups who have started believing in it.


Islam
Even Islam has very strong concepts of hell and heaven. Thus, reincarnation is not believed by many of this faith. Muslims believe in the concept of Judgment Day, the soul is believed to be sleeping till then. Basically death is the physical end, and a person will be rewarded for his good deeds or punished for bad ones on Judgment Day.


Reincarnation According to the Spiritualists

Most spiritual people do believe in reincarnation. They don't consider reincarnation to be a religious process, it's more about moving across different realms to reach the highest stage of spiritual development. After our death our soul enters a different plane of vibrations. Depending on our actions in our life, our soul goes through a transformation process to be more cleanse and pure. And, this may involve cycles of life and death.

What Science Thinks

Science does not believe in reincarnation, it is absolutely false according to it. There are many reasons for this, the most prominent one being that there is absolutely no proof to support that reincarnation exists. Other than some personal accounts, there is no way to reach any conclusion in this matter.

Science has dispelled most of the so-called true accounts as fake, or not strong enough to prove anything. Some of them have been termed as false memories and even scams to extract money.

Science believes that biological death is the absolute end of humans, and there is no non-physical part or soul.

Ian Stevenson and his Research

Ian Stevenson is known for his extensive research in reincarnation and past-life regression. He traveled worldwide, and compiled true accounts of around 3000 children, who claim to remember their past lives.

Although the scientific community has ignored him, and called him a gullible genius, his work is indeed very fascinating.

Children tend to remember past incidences between the age of 2 - 4 years, and memories fade away after 8 years of age. There are certain illnesses, fears, marks that don't have any explanation, and are considered as marks from the past.

There have been cases where children have spoken in languages completely unknown to them or played instruments they never knew about.

Real-life Stories

Ryan Hammons
When Ryan was just 4 years old, he started telling his mother, Cyndi to take him to his real home and family. His mom was perplexed as they had no other home. He told her about his house in Los Angeles and that he was a dancer in Hollywood in the 1920s. His earnestly made Cyndi do some research and luckily, they found a picture of a backup dancer, whom Ryan claimed to be himself. Eventually, Ryan listed all his memories, and 55 of his claims were proven to be true. Professor Jim Tucker helped them. Ryan's vocabulary changing drastically when talking about his past life, the vivid description of his house, his work, and the way he could confidently show his past life self in a picture are important factors in his story.

Edward Austrian
4-year old Edward would tell his mother stories about World War I. He even went on to specify the details of his death. Apparently, he was shot in the throat. He always complained about his sore throat, and his tonsils were removed. But, still the pain did not go. It was only after remembering his death in his past life, the pain went away, leaving the doctors perplexed.

Imad Elawar
A child usually utters "mom" or "dad" as his first words, or any other familiar ones, but Imad spoke two names "Jamileh" and "Mahmoud". Strange, right? He told his parents about his real village and family. With assistance from Dr. Ian Stevenson, they were able to confirm many of Imad's claims about his past life. Mahmoud was his uncle and Jamileh his mistress in his past life. He found them in photographs.

Ruth Simmons
After going through past-life regression therapy, Ruth Simmons could remember many details of her past life. She started speaking in Irish, and said that her name was Bridey Murphy. She recollected many memories but unfortunately names of only two people, who were her grocers, could be confirmed. Her story became very popular and was made into a movie.

Cameron Macaulay
Cameron's is an enthralling story, as he claims that he entered his mother's womb through a hole. He started talking about his white house by the beach when he was 2 years old. He wanted to go back to his island home and his real mom. His mother felt bad for him, and his intense urge and longing made her take him to Barra island, where he claimed to have lived before. There they did find the white house by the beach, and many of his memories were proven to be true.

Parmod Sharma
Imagine a 2-year old telling his mom not to cook for him, as his wife can do that for him. This is exactly what happened with Parmod, who claimed that he owned a business of cookies and water called "Mohan Brothers". As a four-year old he would never eat yogurt since he believed that yogurt killed him. He would talk about his past life with such conviction that his family decided to take him to his hometown, Moradabad. There, most of his claims were proven to be true, and it was revealed that he had developed gastrointestinal problems due to too much yogurt in his past life. This had eventually led to his death.

Is Reincarnation Real?

Reincarnation has become a much debated topic for the very simple reason that we cannot prove that it exists, nor can we prove that it does not exist. Well, at least not yet. People who remember their past lives obviously believe in it, and so do many religious people. But, it is important to understand reincarnation as a universal concept rather than through the purview of a specific religion. The universe is vast and there are so many things that we don't know. Our quest to go beyond the known and conventional is never going to end, and what we may find in the future is unpredictable.

It is considered that there are different planes of our existence. Most believe that there are 7 levels or stages. Unfortunately, we cannot even fathom what happens after death, unless we die. Even science has not been able to concretely prove anything about reincarnation. For now, stories and experiences of people, documented with much precaution, and after ensuring their truth, are the only proof of reincarnation.

So what do you think? Have you ever had any strange experiences or remembered anything related to your past life? Do share your thoughts with us.