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Alienist
31 Jan 2014, 07:04
That's what I seemed to notice is that more often than not, a lot of the eastern religions believe in reincarnation in the afterlife, but in the west, they are more concerned with just the afterlife and hardly mention reincarnation. Why is it that reincarnations are so common in eastern religions?

Aeran
31 Jan 2014, 09:21
There are a few possible factors. It could just be cultural, that those ideas emerged in a certain part of the world and spread within that part of the world and neighboring areas. Secondly, it could represent the difference in cultural climate and the worldview and philosophical outlook that emerged therein. It could also be the case that this is connected to the much stronger culture of yogic practice, spiritual discipline and development etc. that exists in the east (at least within the last few millennium since the rise of Abrahamic religion), that such practices either incline one towards belief in, or provide apparent evidence of, reincarnation. There's certainly a much stronger belief in reincarnation amongst segments of society involved in mystical practice or spiritual discipline than there are amongst others, but whether this reflects apparent evidence within the practices or just the cultural background from which many of those practices come, is harder to say.

LuThorgh
31 Jan 2014, 12:24
It's the culture. Eastern philosophy is focused on the self, and the spirit, and self-transformation.

Reincarnation is the ultimate way of self-transformation, the ultimate fulfillment thereof. Instead of externalizing forces, they internalize them and so the idea of reincarnation is like this ultimate shedding of the bad karma, and the shell that went along with it.

Only through reincarnation can we be reborn as a better person or animal. And this all relates to karma, which in a sense espouses personal responsibility, and dedication toward self-transformation.

Western cultures care more about the external world and how they see themselves in it. They feel as though they should be rewarded for good behavior, and the bad ones punished, but this is left up to god, the devil, heaven and hell. This viewpoint puts less emphasis on self-transformation or self-transcendence and more emphasis on the concept that you're more or less in the universe's courtroom, where you're to be judged.

In Buddhism and Hinduism, the cycle of karma is not cognitive, that is, it does not judge. You simply end up where you end up, based on the actions and reactions you had in a previous life. Cause and effect vs. devine judgement.

It all ties in very closely with our value systems.

Shahaku
31 Jan 2014, 12:47
First, reincarnation isn't limited to Asia and Eastern philosophy. There are several African people's that believe in reincarnation in some form or another. For instance, though I don't remember the specific culture, one culture does believe that when a mother has several miscarriages or children who die in infancy, it's a single child-spirit returning again and again, often maliciously. And the Yoruba, I believe, have a belief that their ancestors are reborn into the family again and again. It's also been found among Native American tribes, and there's some reference to reincarnation among ancient European cultures, the Celts, Norsemen, the Greeks. So I think a more accurate question might be, why do Abrahamic traditions not believe in reincarnation?

Why is it so prevalent in Asian culture? Like many places, Asia was outside the reach of Abrahamic religions for much of the time it was developing. It's cultural and religious doctrines were relatively unaffected by Abrahamic traditions until the last couple centuries, and by then their beliefs were quite deeply entrenched. The same can be said of many African and Native American traditions, as well as the majority of Europe before the spread of Christianity. I know not all religions worldwide believe in reincarnation, even outside of Abrahamic traditions, but their influence is, IMO, the main reason that the majority of the West does not believe in reincarnation.

Aeran
31 Jan 2014, 22:00
First, reincarnation isn't limited to Asia and Eastern philosophy. There are several African people's that believe in reincarnation in some form or another. For instance, though I don't remember the specific culture, one culture does believe that when a mother has several miscarriages or children who die in infancy, it's a single child-spirit returning again and again, often maliciously. And the Yoruba, I believe, have a belief that their ancestors are reborn into the family again and again. It's also been found among Native American tribes, and there's some reference to reincarnation among ancient European cultures, the Celts, Norsemen, the Greeks. So I think a more accurate question might be, why do Abrahamic traditions not believe in reincarnation?

Why is it so prevalent in Asian culture? Like many places, Asia was outside the reach of Abrahamic religions for much of the time it was developing. It's cultural and religious doctrines were relatively unaffected by Abrahamic traditions until the last couple centuries, and by then their beliefs were quite deeply entrenched. The same can be said of many African and Native American traditions, as well as the majority of Europe before the spread of Christianity. I know not all religions worldwide believe in reincarnation, even outside of Abrahamic traditions, but their influence is, IMO, the main reason that the majority of the West does not believe in reincarnation.

I think a lot of it is probably tied into the agenda of social control which is deeply tied into the Abrahamic religions (or Christianity, at least) - if you believe that you only live once, and that the decisions you make during that life will determine your fate for all eternity, you're more likely to act in a way that you are told will result in a positive afterlife, whereas if you believe in reincarnation, it seems like the focus would be on bettering yourself as a person (to escape the cycle of death and rebirth) or bettering the world (after all, you're just gonna come back).

I could swear I read somewhere about reincarnation being a belief held by some of the early Christian sects, but don't quote me on that.

Orecha
31 Jan 2014, 23:54
Everyone is missing a big point here. By "eastern religions," I assume you mean Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and (somewhat) Sikhism?
Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all contain reincarnation because they are dharmic religions, all evolved from ancient Vedism. Sikhism was created as a sort of hybrid between Hinduism and Islam, so it has both the concepts of reincarnation and paradise. Other "eastern" religions, however, like Confucianism, Shinto, and Taoism do not natively have the concept of reincarnation, though some Taoist sects have added it after contact with Buddhism.

In the west, there have historically been numerous examples of reincarnation. Here are a few, in order of history:

There are references to reincarnation in the ancient Middle East, such as in some ancient Persian, Mesopotamian, and Canaanite religions, including Israelite religion (with support for the books of Jonah and Ecclesiastes as texts about reincarnation, as well as other references).
In Greece, Orphism was a religion that supported reincarnation, and Pherecydes of Syros, Pythagoras, and Plato, to name a few, were all proponents of reincarnation, prior to contact with Buddhism (initially via Alexander the Great in 326 BCE).
Ancient Celts, at least in Gaul, believed in reincarnation according to Julius Caesar (De Bello Gallico).
In early Jewish sects, there are references to reincarnation. Josephus discusses this in Jewish War 2:163.
Some early Christian sects, such as the Valentinians, Basilidians, Bardaisanites, Sethanians, and the somewhat breakaway Manichaeans, believed in reincarnation.
The Druze and the Islamic Ghulat support reincarnation.
Medieval Judaism and Orthodox Judaism of the modern era support reincarnation. Most people don't know that about Orthodox Judaism, though.


So reincarnation is neither as pervasive in the east or absent in the west as one might assume. It's fairly equally distributed, at least historically.

Aeran
01 Feb 2014, 00:02
Everyone is missing a big point here. By "eastern religions," I assume you mean Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and (somewhat) Sikhism?
Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all contain reincarnation because they are dharmic religions, all evolved from ancient Vedism. Sikhism was created as a sort of hybrid between Hinduism and Islam, so it has both the concepts of reincarnation and paradise. Other "eastern" religions, however, like Confucianism, Shinto, and Taoism do not natively have the concept of reincarnation, though some Taoist sects have added it after contact with Buddhism.

In the west, there have historically been numerous examples of reincarnation. Here are a few, in order of history:

There are references to reincarnation in the ancient Middle East, such as in some ancient Persian, Mesopotamian, and Canaanite religions, including Israelite religion (with support for the books of Jonah and Ecclesiastes as texts about reincarnation, as well as other references).
In Greece, Orphism was a religion that supported reincarnation, and Pherecydes of Syros, Pythagoras, and Plato, to name a few, were all proponents of reincarnation, prior to contact with Buddhism (initially via Alexander the Great in 326 BCE).
Ancient Celts, at least in Gaul, believed in reincarnation according to Julius Caesar (De Bello Gallico).
In early Jewish sects, there are references to reincarnation. Josephus discusses this in Jewish War 2:163.
Some early Christian sects, such as the Valentinians, Basilidians, Bardaisanites, Sethanians, and the somewhat breakaway Manichaeans, believed in reincarnation.
The Druze and the Islamic Ghulat support reincarnation.
Medieval Judaism and Orthodox Judaism of the modern era support reincarnation. Most people don't know that about Orthodox Judaism, though.


So reincarnation is neither as pervasive in the east or absent in the west as one might assume. It's fairly equally distributed, at least historically.

Very good points. Also worth pointing out that a lot of Asian cultures have a much more fluid conception of religon than in the West. In China, for example, people are quite likely to practice some combination of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism depending on the context (and you could argue for any of those three that it's as much a philosophy or a worldview as a religion in the way the West understands the term), the same goes for Japan, where, iirc, Shinto tends to dominate the more day to day practice and the life milestone ceremonies, while Buddhism is preferred for life and death, funerals, conceptions of the afterlife, etc.

iflewoverthecuckoosnest
01 Feb 2014, 00:40
Very good points. Also worth pointing out that a lot of Asian cultures have a much more fluid conception of religon than in the West. In China, for example, people are quite likely to practice some combination of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism depending on the context (and you could argue for any of those three that it's as much a philosophy or a worldview as a religion in the way the West understands the term), the same goes for Japan, where, iirc, Shinto tends to dominate the more day to day practice and the life milestone ceremonies, while Buddhism is preferred for life and death, funerals, conceptions of the afterlife, etc.

That's interesting. I prefer that to the more Westernized idea that you can't treat religion like a "salad bar", and that if you follow a few tenants of one tradition you must swallow them all and remain exclusive to them. The irony is that most people who make that sort of judgement don't actually follow all of the tenants of their own religion anyway, haha.
Besides that, most spiritual traditions have always been in some kind of flux due to cultural and political changes, and it is common for one religion to evolve out of another over time.

Alienist
02 Feb 2014, 10:41
I guess it's really more of a dharmic thing. However in Taoism some people believe Lao Tzu will be reincarnated. However where would Zoroastrianism fall into? It's a middle eastern religion and as far as I know, there's no reincarnation in there and it's not an Abrahamic faith, although it influenced Abrahamic faiths.

Orecha
02 Feb 2014, 17:19
I guess it's really more of a dharmic thing. However in Taoism some people believe Lao Tzu will be reincarnated. However where would Zoroastrianism fall into? It's a middle eastern religion and as far as I know, there's no reincarnation in there and it's not an Abrahamic faith, although it influenced Abrahamic faiths.
Zoroastrianism evolved from Proto-Indo-Iranian religion, itself evolved from Proto-Indo-European religion. It's genealogy breaks down as follows (alphabetically):

Anatolian
Armenian
Balkan
Baltic
Celtic
Greek
Proto-Indo-Iranian

Indo-Aryan

Vedism

Buddhism
Hinduism
Jainism
[Sikhism]


Kalasha


Proto-Iranian

Zoroastrianism



Italic
Slavic
Tocharian

So, as you can see, Zoroastrianism is linked to Hinduism and the other dharmic religions via a shared ethnic, linguistic, and religious genealogy. They have shared concepts and language, such as Mithra/Mitra, Haoma/Soma, Baga/Bhaga, Daeva/Deva, Ahura/Asura, etc. What is really interesting is that Zoroastrians and Hindus have somewhat villainized or demoted each other's chief gods yet still keep them in the pantheon, with Zoroastrians honoring the Ahuras and seeing the Daevas as demonic while the Devas are the chief gods of Classical Hinduism with the Asuras as their enemies.

Also, keep in mind that as religions (and languages) move over time, they pick up bits and pieces from other civilizations and new innovations are made. Modern Hinduism has been heavily influenced by native Dravidian religions, picking up gods like Ganesha and Shiva (as a proper god) that are even more recognizable to Westerners than the more ancient (and formerly more important) ones like Indra and Agni. Zoroastrianism divided from Proto-Iranian Polytheism due to the religious reforms and innovations of Zarathustra (Zoroaster). Because of these events, the two religions began to become unrecognizable to one another, not to mention casual observers.

Alienist
05 Feb 2014, 09:26
Makes me wonder if a Zoroastrian/Hindu relationship is possible due to the fact that they think their spirits are good while the others are evil. Zoroastrianism has some similarities but doesn't have reincarnation as far as I know. I heard some forms of Judaism believe in reincarnation and Jesus was rumored to have talked of reincarnation as well.

thalassa
05 Feb 2014, 16:04
Sort of random...but reincarnation wasn't unheard of among Christians until it was expressly denied as a doctrine in the sixth century. Also, while not common, it can be found mentioned (and accounted as a possibility) by some Greek philosophers/scholars (you know, off topic, but I truly think that one of the reasons why I love the Greek gods so much is that orthodoxy was secondary to orthopraxy, and there were as many ways of believing in them as there are today--from strict hard polytheism to agnosticism and even atheism).