The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says, “As a caterpillar, having come to the end of one blade of grass, draws itself together and reaches out for the next, so the Self, having come to the end of one life and dispelled all ignorance, gathers in his faculties and reaches out from the old body to a new.” The Upanishads, Eknath Easwaran.
The Bhagavad Gita says, “You (Arjuna/any person/any thing really) were never born; you will never die. You have never changed: you can never change. Unborn, eternal, immutable, immemorial, you do not die when the body dies.” Ch. 2 v. 20 and “As a man abandons worn-out clothes and acquires new ones, so when the body is worn out a new one is acquired by the Self, who lives within.” Ch. 2, v.22 The Bhagavad Gita, Eknath Easwaran.
I say, “It’s like getting a new computer.”
Recently I was reading a wonderful science-fiction novel, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, and the Dhamapada, the teachings of the Buddha. (I highly recommend both.) And something in that combination got me thinking about reincarnation from a 21st-century point of view.
When I get a new computer it’s usually because the old one is well past functioning at peak efficiency. There may be a few programs that are becoming glitchy or even downright useless. In any event my ability to access the information I need has slowed to the point where I have no patience left. (And I have the patience of a saint, or so say all my harmonium students.) So I get a new computer. Then I connect the new computer to the old one and transfer all of the old data to the new machine. Isn’t this just like moving consciousness from one vehicle to another?
If you’re anything like me, this process can be a little scary or even downright terrifying. There are programs that need to be updated. There are files that need to be opened individually and re-formatted. And then of course there’s the simple fact that every thing just looks completely different. The buttons are all in the wrong places. (As a visual person, this is one of the most frustrating elements for me.)
The next time I need a new computer, I plan to call to mind the caterpillar reaching from one blade of grass to another in the hope that it will give me greater patience and acceptance for the inevitable bumps in the process. And more importantly, the next time I have to say goodbye to a loved one this is yet another way of reminding myself that it is every bit as much a new beginning as it is an ending.
Now if we could only make a computer that would last 100 years …