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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K079-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

The doctrine of reincarnation teaches that each human being has been born and died, and again been born and died, over and over again in a beginningless process that will never end unless they become enlightened. The doctrine of karma asserts that right and wrong actions bring, respectively, positive and negative consequences. For monotheistic religious traditions that accept reincarnation and karma, each person beginninglessly depends on God, and karmic consequences are under God’s providential control; repentance and faith may lead to God graciously cancelling negative consequences. Nonmonotheistic religious traditions that embrace reincarnation and karma doctrine see karma as operating in terms of what is, in effect, a moral version of natural or causal law. Both sorts of religious tradition view escape from the reincarnation cycle – ‘the wheel’ – as the ultimate goal of one’s existence and as possible only if one can escape from having karmic consequences still coming at one of one’s deaths. Monotheistic traditions see escape as continuance of personal identity, and living in the presence of God (as in monotheistic Hinduism). Nonmonotheistic traditions range from seeing escape as continuance of personal identity in a disembodied condition of omniscience (Jainism, an atheistic religion), loss of all personal identity in entering a changeless nirvāṇa, or annihilation of all undesirable states but continued existence composed of only desirable states (as in different Buddhist traditions), or simply the realization of identity with a qualityless ultimate reality, so that there only apparently are either persons or reincarnations (as in Mahāyāna voidism and Advaita Vedānta).

Citing this article:
Yandell, Keith E.. Reincarnation, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K079-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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