• There are three types of people in the world, those who don't know what's happening, those who wonder what's happening and those on the streets that make things happen.

Why I Don’t Want To Believe in Rebirth…

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 28, 2012

Five years ago I was walking down a road in Helsinki with a German friend of mine. It was a fine summer day and we had just stepped out of the Library. And right then a beautiful Audi whizzed past us. “Wow! I wish I could get my hands on that beauty”, exclaimed my friend. “Relax, what’s the hurry?” I replied. He smiled and said, “Raunak, you are a Hindu. You will be re-born and can have another life to get a car like that. I am a Christian.I have only one life to get one.”

And what he said is etched in my mind for eternity. He had in a simple sentence explained the psyche of the Indian people in general and one that could be responsible for all the ills that pervade our society. e.g. India will never see a Revolution. A Revolution requires people to rise against the injustice meted out by those in authority. But most Indians when faced with a problem blame their past life sins (bad karmas) for their poor condition now. A beggar will blame his own wrong actions for his destitute existence in this life. He will never blame the corrupt and evil authorities in power for his pitiful life. A man who falls into a puddle of water on the road will blame his stars for the fall, not the inept contractor who made that low quality crap from our tax money. And by suffering the pains of this life we believe we will be reborn into a better life.

And this is why I do not agree with the concepts of rebirth and karma. These tenets have been used for centuries to carry out social oppression and the perpetrators have gotten away with it. It breeds self-infliction of pain and a cowardly attitude that many misinterpret as forgiveness. The belief in rebirth also belittles human life. No wonder the value of human life in India is abysmally low.  Also, is this complacency the reason that since days of Alexander, India has always been the conquered land.

If only everyone believed that they have ONLY ONE LIFE, they would go all out to make it better. And in doing so, get rid of the real culprits of their miseries. We all need to live in the present with the realization that this moment is never going to come back nor is my soul ever going to come back to this world. We need to ACT to change our present and not give into apathy towards our sufferings for hope of a better next life. This is the only life that we have and it is time for a Revolution.

9 Responses to “Why I Don’t Want To Believe in Rebirth…”

  1. Totally agree, being Indian too I have heard this alot and you are right they should stop blaming their circumstances on past life, karma etc, it’s just an excuse to accept the situation and do nothing.

    • Raunak said

      thanks for your views on the subject 🙂 … there needs to be a paradigm shift in the education system in India. Philosophy as a subject must be introduced at primary school level. Only then can change be realized.

  2. it’s so interesting that you are urging eastern folks to end the passivity that results from the belief that they are chained to their karmic destiny. meanwhile, an enormous contingent of westerners (specifically americans) is urging our christian-based society to think beyond materialism, capitalism and close-mindedness and accept that there is much more to life than being a winner.

    there is a happy medium, i’m sure of it. i’m a cultural christian but a practicing buddhist. it’s an interesting combo. i’ve got a good hold on mindfulness, but there’s always a fire burning brightly under my ass. 😉 let me know if you find a country that gets it right!

    peace to you!

    • Raunak said

      Hi Vanessa, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am more specifically asking my own country folks to wake up! that is the only way for us to rise out of the poverty and exploitation we suffer due to our corrupt leaders.
      I believe in karma. It is the basis of a lot of my other beliefs, one of which is astrology. And since astrology is a serious hobby of mine, I cannot not believe in karma. But the rest of the country needs a more aggressive attitude to overthrow this corrupt system.
      you have a wonderful combination there. a christian culture with a buddhist belief. that must make you very balanced 😉
      the country closest to getting it right is Finland. I might be wrong though…any country you think close to perfection?
      peace right back at you!

  3. This is very thought provoking.
    It’s interesting to me, though, that Sicilians, who are of course devout Christians, have the same attitude. Their explanation is that, if they are suffering horribly and being punished, it is because God has selected them to learn a particularly profound lesson and they will be rewarded enormously in heaven. So they almost enjoy suffering as if it marks them out as superior in some moral way.
    They do imposes this on others too. When my son was born they gave me a cesarian with no pain killers. And when I managed to murnur that I was in unbearable pain a nurse told me angrily that I was privileged and should be a better Christian, i.e. not complain.
    I was also really struck by the phrase “a cowardly attitude that many misinterpret as forgiveness”.
    It made me think of Ghandi and how his peaceful approach to British rule gradually changed the whole British psyche to the extent British people realised conquering and ruling others for material gain is wrong… which led to the gradual dismantling of the British Empire. I had always thought that his attitude was of forgiveness, and that eventually made the British realise they were dealing with morally superior people in some way. Which made them take a good hard look at themselves.
    I don’t know how many other British people view it this way, but that’s what I was taught in school.
    I think if Indians had put up an aggressive fight for their rights, Britain would have reacted the same way, only more so, as this was all they knew up to that point and that was the British culture at that time.

    • Raunak said

      I wonder what the psyche behind celebrating suffering is. I see so much similarity in thought between the mediterranean countries and India.These two regions differ big time from the predominant philosophical thought in Northern Europe. I do think it has a lot to do with religions and the Lutheran movement.If we trace these differences to ancient times, we can see them emanate from two distinct Greek philosophers, the Stoics and the Epicureans.
      History, Philosophy and Religion are so interesting. Wonder which influenced what, did philosophical thinking give rise to religions or was it the other way round. Kind of like the chicken and egg question.

      Gandhi remains a controversial figure for a lot of Indians. It is common to come across people who blame him for the partition of India. Also, there is a sizable population that would say that it was not Gandhi who forced the British out. They say that after WW II the British economy was not strong enough to sustain a military in India, and having sucked us dry of all our resources, it was in Britain’s interest to leave India.

      I have come across another interesting theory of why India was partitioned and how the US had a major role to play in it. Maybe that’s for another place and time 🙂

      Thanks TSH for sharing such thought provoking comments 🙂 you rock!

      • Thanks for the compliments. 🙂 I think you and your blog rock too!!! I generally feel starved of intellectually stimulating conversation these days, so it it just what I need.

        Well, personally I think cultures shape or choose their religion to fit what is convenient or practical at the time.
        A recent example came about with the invention of the contraceptive pill. With such a reliable contraceptive, it took no time at all for premarital sex to become morally acceptable in all the countries where the pill was easily available. There’s no other explanation for this drastic about-turn in morals/religion that has taken place in Europe and America entirely within my own lifetime.

        Looking at the bigger picture, I think the Lutheran movement arose and was adopted in Northern Europe because the majority of the people wanted that change. They were physically far away from the Popes in Rome, and all the Papal interference in politics and European wars (which was pervasive and constant) was never in their favour – the Vatican was in the south and saw the southern point of view. Therefore the northern Europeans were far more ready to see the corruption in the church hierarchy, and that the manipulation wrought by the Popes had nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with money and power here on earth. They didn’t want to be told to do things by far away foreigners who claimed it said so in the Bible – they wanted to read the Bible for themselves and find out the facts.

        Once you start questioning some aspects of your religiion, you are ready to question them all, and you take that first step towards a humanist, atheist culture. The commonest situation that has brought this about historically has been the creation of cosmopolitan cities.
        Ancient Athens was physically in the middle of so many trade routes that it ended up with people of many different religious and cultures living and interacting together. That makes people realise that a totally different religion from their own can still work to bring about social cohesion, and a code of moral justice (which always works better than a legal code, which is only ever plan B) – which is what religions are basically for. Once you start examining and comparing different religions you realise the actual details are arbitrary, so then you question the absolute truth of your own one and – hey presto! – you have turned into a humanist philosopher like Plato, Aristotle and the rest.
        The Romans brought this mix of cultures and religions to their own capital city as their empire grew. The intellectual elite took an interest in philosophy and became atheists, and then finally the rest of the populace did too.
        So, I think two different religions cannot live long together cheek-by-jowl, and you either end up with extremism and war, or philosophy and atheism.

        Christianity was adopted just when The Romans and people of their empire were starting to realise they really did need something to replace what they had abandoned. Since it was a new religion, it was being shaped and formed to fit the culture of the time. The Romans had lost the ability to control their empire, their military power, their educational system which taught values of self denial and discipline, and their appetite for constant war. Christianity was very much focused on forgiveness, gentleness and peace at that time, so it perfectly fitted the mood of the people.
        By the time they were ready to start the crusades, well, they reinvented it again.

        Returning to the original question of celebrating suffering. (By the way I’m obviously writing an essay not a blog comment here, I’ve started so I’ll finish!!)
        I think people glorify suffering when they can’t see how to avoid it.
        That’s how it started in Christianity, though I don’t know why it hasn’t died out yet.
        In the very first years of Christianity the concept of “self mortification” spread like wildfire in Egypt. The idea of monasteries and convents was invented in Egypt and the early monks and nuns would starve themselves, cut their own body parts off, flagellate themselves etc. Egypt was absolutely at rock bottom then – five thousand years of being the leading and most advanced culture in the world had ended with them being conquered and sucked dry of all wealth by Greeks and then Romans who had very little regard for their history or ways. They were utterly powerless and put all their faith in the afterlife. This life was of no value and their best hope was to separate themselves from it spiritually as much as they could, by showing how slight was their regard for their own physical presence.
        These ideals came completely from the reality they lived in. The fact people retreated into monasteries in their droves shows life outside them was unbearable – many were homeless, and close to starving since the Romans took most of their food.
        As I said, I don’t understand why the glorification of suffering hasn’t died out yet in Catholic societies.

        I’d like to read about the theory explaining why India was partitioned and the role of the Americans – maybe that’s one for a new blog post?

      • Raunak said

        here’s the one I wrote yesterday on the Partition

        I had never quite thought of the impact Roman society could have had on early Christianity. And the source of Egypt for the principle of suffering is very new and intriguing too. Thank you so much for introducing the two to me.

        Hinduism too has gone through great changes over centuries. Ancient Vedic Hinduism was closely related to the nature and its elements. Gods were necessarily elements of nature. Another defining feature was the oneness of divine and human beings. There was only one universal spirit called “Brahman” that was divine and was present in nature, Gods and Human beings. All living beings were considered to have the divine in them.

        Then when the Muslims and Christian invasions began towards 8th century AD, India got its first tast of the Abrahamic religions. It was our first exposure to religions where there was a separation of God from Human beings. Gods were placed at a higher pedestal than the mortal humans, and we humans were made inferior beings. This concept inspired the transformation of Hinduism into a new form called the “Bhakti Movement” where suddenly the spiritual aspects of the Vedas were forgotten and divine was considered solely possessed by the Gods.

        Because of these changes, present day Hinduism is full of contradictions. On one hand we believe in Karma, yet on the other hand we submit to the Gods and beg them for a better life.

  4. […] we don’t do that. Second, I am going to steal an analysis from Raunak (nominated above), a fellow blogger in India, who has given this more serious thought than I, but it seems logical to me. Here’s […]

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