Daily Post Challenge: Reincarnation

I’ve journeyed through all kinds of religions.  As a teenager I hung out with Mescalero Apache shamans in New Mexico, and got to go to a peyote meeting where the group energy was channeled to help somebody in trouble.  When I finally went to college, I took courses in Anthropology with a professor who had learned witchcraft in Africa, and proved it by murdering chickens and divining the future from their guts on the floor of the classroom.  As a graduate student in Anthropology, I learned about lots and lots of religions that believed in reincarnation.

But it wasn’t until the year 2000 that I began to look into my own native religion: Judaism.  Jews are famous for being Buddhists, Hindus, anything but Jews.  And I was no different.

My motivation for exploring the religious beliefs behind my genetic heritage was simple.  Because of a confluence of influences, I lost everything I owned.  My health took a dive.  My 16 year old son was living on the streets, eating out of dumpsters, just as I had done when I was his age.  Life sucked.

A friend turned me on to a book of the Apocrypha: Christian mystical writings that didn’t make it into the Bible.  I started wondering, wow, if the New Testament is this cool, what is the Old Testament like?  So I started reading it, and came up with not much knowledge but loads of questions.  Naturally, I turned to the Internet, and typed this into Google:  “What is the meaning of life?”

The top of the search results lead me to the Meaningful Life Center, run by Rabbi Simon Jacobsen.  It would take more words than I have here to explain what is contained in there.  It’s everything Jewish, both traditional and mystical.  I went straight to the mystical.  There I discovered that Judaism teaches that we are sent into this life, these bodies, in order to fix things.  These things can be blemishes on our souls because of misdeeds in previous lives, or they can be blemishes on the collective soul (which is another topic), or they can be fixings of specific events that are destined to happen in this life, or in the world at large.

I have spent the past 13 years in further study of Jewish mysticism and concepts of reincarnation, and how I can personally work on fixing myself and my little part of the world.

Then I went to India, as a result of an event that I do not believe was random.  It was 2010, and I was very ill with something that was eluding the diagnostic prowess of Western physicians.  I have a passing familiarity and great respect for Ayurvedic medicine, so I researched the most reputable Ayurvedic hospitals in India, and one of them happened to fit my time frame and pocket book, so off I went to Tamil Nadu.

On the day that I arrived, the physician in charge was out on maternity leave, or paternity leave, I guess, since his wife had just had a baby.  The doctor who was filling in was Dr. Sundar Raman.  The moment I saw him I burst into tears.  I knew that he was somehow related to me, from a previous life.  Unlike a Western doctor, he jumped up and ran around to my side of the desk and held me while I cried.

I stayed at the Ayurvedic hospital for ten weeks, undergoing intensive treatments.  And every day, Dr. Sundar came to my cottage and we studied together for three hours.  He is a Brahmin priest.  We studied the correspondences between the Hindu Vedas (the scholarly tracts behind the religion) and the mystical backbone of the Torah, which is the parallel system of the Hebrews.  We drew diagrams and studied passages from both disciplines.

I learned that in Hinduism, the understanding of reincarnation is that we are engaged in a process of purification of the soul.  With every incarnation, we should strive to live as clean and true a life as possible, with the aim of ascending through the layers of unreality and misdeeds that are inherent in the human condition, and eventually reaching a pure state, finally merging with the Cosmic Consciousness.

And what about illness?  Where does that fit in?  Illness, says Dr. Sundar, is a pathway to salvation.  If we pay true attention to the message of illness, and realize that it is a process of cleansing from sins committed in previous lives, we can use it as a springboard to ascending in consciousness and leaving the Karmic Wheel.

I was shocked at this, and very excited, because this is exactly what Judaism says about the purification process, and the ability of illness and misfortune to cleanse and actually benefit us, even though the process can be very unpleasant.

On difficult days, I try to remember what Dr. Sundar says: Illness is the key to salvation.  And I fervently hope that in the merit of my suffering and the good deeds that I try to do, I don’t have to have a next life; and that if I do, it could be easier than this one.

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8 Comments

  1. Wow!! I had no idea you believed this!! I really think it’s cool that you Googled “what is the meaning of life.” I don’t know if I’d ever have thought to do that!! 😀 I’m going to have to Google “Ayurvedic” because I’ve never heard the word before and don’t know what it means.

    Reply
    • Well, I was really desperate, and G-d didn’t seem to be offering me any answers, so I turned to Google instead. Is that idol worship???? (I’m kidding, sort of.) Hope you found good answers to your Ayurveda search.

      Reply
      • It took me to Wikipedia, which gave many details. I found most fascinating what it had to say about mental illness — like what a lot of “churchy” people seem to think. Will we ever come out of the dark ages when it comes to mental and emotional illnesses? I guess no matter where one goes on this planet someone is going to attribute it to demonic possession. My friend, Kevin, at Voices of Glass (http://voicesofglass.com) quotes my Bible properly using a New Testament verse(s) that is talking about various sick people being brought to Jesus for healing. The sicknesses listed separate “lunatick” from those “demon possessed” as well as other illnesses. (Sorry, I can’t remember the verse exactly right this moment. Bad sleep/no sleep Friday-Saturday and now Sunday morning.)

        This way of thinking also reminds me of how many people, mainly women I believe, were tortured to death calling them “witches” when they weren’t. Oh, that reminds me of a good movie I saw on Netflix before I quit them: “Season of the Witch” I think it was called. Nicholas Cage was in it. He and another guy are Crusaders (which is too gruesome to even think about for me) until they get fed up and quit. They are arrested as deserters and then given the option of staying in jail until they’re tried or transporting a witch to a monastery. Very good. Suspenseful.

        BTW, I don’t think it’s idol worship to turn to Google. I believe God gives us knowledge as we need it and apparently this age needed Google. I don’t believe things just invent themselves — they come through inspiration from God. We just have to be wise enough to separate what truly comes from Him and what doesn’t — like how much wonderful information is on the net and how much filth is out there too. Wasn’t it Joel who prophesied how much knowledge would be increased in the latter days? I think we’ve been in the “latter days” for quite a while now and I am ready for them to end!!

        Okay, I’ve rambled on quite enough!! Take care of yourself!!

        Love,
        Kathy

        Reply
        • My Rabbi has written a wonderful book about Technology and the Messianic Times….right, the prophesies say that as we get closer to the Great Sabbath there will be a huge influx of information, as if time were accelerating….and it’s coming true.

          Reply
  2. Kathy, you’re great! I love what you’re saying here. One of my teachers, Rabbi Avraham Sutton (you can look him up on Youtube, if you are in the mood) wrote a book on Technology and the Latter Days. It’s absolutely true. Here in the 6th Millenium we are being catapulted into an entirely new level of God Consciousness (now listen to me, and I’m trying my best to pull myself into agnosticism LOL). I’m pressed for time right now, but would like to discuss this more. Take care!

    Reply
  3. Once again you speak to me via my heart and soul. I wandered into Quakerism as a teenager and what I learnt about silence on Sunday mornings in their Meeting House still enriches my experience every time I stand with my feet together davening the Amidah. I’m not sure about the whole business of the role of suffering, however. But that’s a discussion for another time. Thank you, as ever for lighting the way…..

    Reply
    • Thank YOU, Nicolas, for your kind words and encouragement. Funny, I was a Quaker for five years, and got out of it because of the political side of it. You can find all you want to know about Jewish concepts of reincarnation from Kitvei Ari, Sha’ar ha’Gilgulim. It has been published in English with excellent commentary by R’Avraham Sutton, who is my Rav. It’s in his sefer, The Well of Living Waters. http://www.avrahamsutton.com/books/

      Reply
  4. I am glad I read this. How you happened to meet Dr Sundar Raman and the experience is profound.

    Did that teacher who murdered chickens could predict correct? I wonder what is this art?

    Reply

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