This study will discuss the theme of rebirth as found in the philosophies of India. The study will establish the linkage between the law of Karma and rebirth. The study will also consider the value of these beliefs in regulating the lifestyle of the people.
To understand the Indian, or Hindu, concept of rebirth, one must first recognize that the relationship of the soul and the body in the religion of Hinduism (and related Indian philosophies) is one in which the former does not depend for its existence on the latter.
As we read in Smith, the souls of individuals come into the world in an unknown manner. Birth and rebirth occur by the power of God, certainly, but the precise nature of this phenomenon is spelled out only in mythical terms in Indian philosophies, as Prabhupada writes. The interpretation of the Indian sacred book, the Bhagavad-Gita, provides us with this explanation of birth and rebirth: "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up old and useless ones" (Prabhupada, 1972, p. 28). The further explanation of this passage gives us further insight: "Change of body by the atomic individual soul is an accepted fact . . . Transference of the atomic individual soul to another body is also made possible by the grace of the Supersoul" (p. 28).
On the one hand, then, the process of birth and rebirth can be seen as a means whereby the soul moves from body to body and life to life in order to grow in consciousness and spirituality, moving ever closer to liberation and the freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth. On the other hand, if we see God as the creator of everything, as the Hindus do, then it must be asked why God would put people through such suffering --- be it an illusion or not --- when he could have created them enlightened from the beginning.
In any case, as Smith writes, "This process by which an individual jiva (soul) passes ...