A Review of the Bahá'í Writings on the Concept of Reincarnation
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #53
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
May 27–30, 2004
(see list of papers from #53)
published in Lights of Irfan, volume 6, pages 21-46
under new title
"A Bahá'í Understanding of Reincarnation in Relation to the World's Faiths"© 2005, Irfán Colloquia
Belief in reincarnation, that is, the return of man's spirit or some aspects of his reality to the material world after death, has risen from 21% to 25% in the U.S. over the past decade. Believers in this concept are now found amongst the adherents of most religions and even among non-religionists.
Given the overwhelming impact that this ideology can have in the life and belief of people and society, we will briefly explore this concept in the Sacred Texts of various religions and then offer the perspective of the Bahá'í Writings and, in particular, the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá on the subject.
The Bahá'í Faith rejects the notion of reincarnation and instead offers a far-reaching belief system that acknowledges God's love for man and his companionship as the purpose behind his creation. The first stage in the spiritual progress of man starts with his birth, is enriched with acquisition of virtues and noble qualities in his earthly life, and this process continues throughout the limitless spiritual worlds of God eternally. The Bahá'í belief changes man's age-long motivation for doing good in expectation of heaven and fear of hell, to a continuous and uplifting spiritual progress. The Bahá'í Faith provides a deeper understanding of manís spirit and its relationship to the physical body. Man's spirit is regarded as God's supreme talisman, traversing the innumerable spiritual worlds, each full of unconditional love and boundless grace, towards the court of His presence. He leaves behind the world of dust, limitations, weaknesses, and darkness for the world of freedom, perfection and light, just as he leaves the embryonic womb of limitations for the vast material world of colors, sounds and fragrances.
Thus, there remains no reason for man's spirit to return to this netherworld and become attached to a plant, animal or even another human body. After its severance from the human body, the human spirit, with its acquired virtues and Godís unique gift of free will, will soar and journey through the expanse of never-ending spiritual worlds, gaining an ever-greater measure of bounties and grace, and becoming ever worthier of His companionship.
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