Authored by: James A. Santucci

The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138852075
eBook ISBN: 9781315723747
Adobe ISBN:


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The classical definition of reincarnation, and the most concise, appears in the Bhagavad G?t? 2.22: “Just as a man, having thrown away his worn-out clothes, takes on other new ones, so does the embodied [deh?: the j?va or “soul”], having abandoned worn-out bodies, connect with other new ones.” Long (1948, 149) gives a more precise definition by introducing three restrictions: 1) that the location of the body is in this world, (i.e. the earthly sphere); 2) that the body must be occupied for more than a temporary period; 3) that the transmigrating soul must be “that which creates an individual.” These restrictions are based upon the Greek and, to a lesser extent, South Asian teachings of reincarnation or metempsychosis. However, these restrictions are not as universal as assumed. “World” (mentioned in no. 1 above) often represents the entire cycle of existence (sa?s?ra), including the heavens and hells, in the ancient South Asian religions of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The soul may not be the underlying component or principle of personality, or for that matter the equivalent to, or carrier of, the personality (Buddhism); and in two Hindu philosophical traditions (Buddhist and S??khya) the “soul,” however conceived, may not even be considered the transmigrating principle.

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