Maneuvering baggage from one country to the next, I can’t help but take notice of the subtle and at times, pervasive, differences found within each culture. One such difference is the role religion plays in daily life and how behaviors are reflected within these beliefs.
As cultures, we generally believe something. The foundation on which our values stand is shaped by these ideals, developed by the generations that have come before us. And although it may appear that the influence of religion is waning around the globe, it’s from these roots that the nature of our modern-day convictions have grown. This includes our ideas about life and death and the interplay of the time we spend in between.
Religious doctrine not only includes thoughts about how our actions affect our time here now (karma) but also whether or not we continue on in a physical form after we die (rebirth). These implications influence our opinions, judgments and behavior and it’s between these lines that the moral codes of societies have been written. But what if our views are askew?
The experience and understanding of our thoughts and actions are the parameters that create the world around us and are highly individual. How this information is taught and received however, is largely cultural. Public opinion can be swayed just as powerfully by a lack of information as it can be from its availability and in the West, the value placed on the tangibility of what we encounter inclines the mind to remain closed instead of open.
Death is a fate that no one escapes, and although the matter of what happens after death affects everyone, very few questions are asked. Perhaps it’s that lack of tangibility: with the inability to recall a time before, it’s difficult to conceive of a time after. But just because it can’t be seen, does this mean it doesn’t exist?
Each of the major religions present a position on our experience after death. Using this as a door, we can open a dialogue on rebirth to more closely examine our own beliefs. With Christians comprising 33% of the worldwide population and Muslims following at 23%, this places those who believe we will not revisit the earthly realm at about 56%. With Buddhists and Hindus representing 7% and 14% respectively, this 21%, although the minority, still equates to 1.5 Billion of the world population who believes we do return in some form. (The remainder account for Unaffiliated or Other.).
Viewing rebirth through a religious lens is not meant to distinguish who is right and who is wrong. It’s a course to turn the light inward and perceive our beliefs from a different vantage point. It’s easy to consider ourselves openminded. It can be slightly more difficult to objectively examine our long-held beliefs when they are challenged.
The truth that we will all die one day is indisputable and whether or not we will experience rebirth in some form is not up to us. The laws of Universe are not concerned with our views, no matter how steadfast. Would it however, change our behavior to know that every thought, word and action reverberates far beyond the limiting scope of death?
Think about it, in this supra-organized Universe, doesn’t it appear slightly imbalanced that God, Allah, Brahma, Cosmic Consciousness, etc., would lavish one individual so generously with wealth and privilege on one side of the globe while his brother, on the other side, is born into struggle, need and starvation?
Would behaviors change, if due to over-indulgence in this lifetime we knew we’d be returning as a Haitian woman in the next, fighting poverty to keep our family alive? What if we were to come back as a Korean street dog due to mistreatment of animals or as paybacks for a role as an abuser bought us a one-way ticket on the receiving end? What if, as part of the rules, we return time and time again to learn Universal lessons until we manage to get them right?
What if this isn’t it at all. What if beyond life as we know it there lies a way of being that our human mind is incapable of wrapping itself around? What if it isn’t something to fear or to know. Actions have consequences and the choices we make and sometimes more importantly, don’t make, predicate the creation of our world. What happens after we leave this body isn’t nearly as important than the choices we make while we’re in it.