Word document download: FCT-0101

  • The soul (atma or atman) exists in all species of life and is the source of consciousness.
  • The atma is eternal and unchangeable, as distinct from the temporary and ever-changing material body. It was not created at any time nor can it ever be destroyed.
  • At the time of death the soul is carried by the subtle (astral) body to a new gross body, according to the law of karma (action and reaction).
  • Karma is not created in the lower species. Human life alone is one of responsibility.
  • The perpetual cycle of repeated birth and death is called samsara.
  • There are 8,400,000 ‘species’ of life within six main divisions, as follows:
    • humans (including demigods) 400,000 species
    • beasts 3,000,000 species
    • birds 1,000,000 species
    • insects 1,100,000 species
    • aquatics 900,000 species
    • plants 2,000,000 species
  • Although each soul has his it’s unique destiny, already determined at birth, human beings have some (limited) freedom of choice to determine their future. In other words, destiny and human agency (free will) exist simultaneously. “Man is the architect of his own fortune”.
  • Those who die in the mode of goodness (sattva guna) go to the realm of the devas (demigods). Those who die in the mode of passion (raja guna) stay in the middle regions (i.e. as human beings). Those who die under the influence of tama-guna (ignorance) go downwards.
  • Some sinful souls do not immediately take another body at death but remain in their subtle bodies as ghosts. According to the Vedas their are various reasons for becoming a ghost (e.g. suicide).

* By perpetual we mean indefinite but not eternal (in the sense that one is condemned forever, with no
chance of redemption).

  • After falling into the lower species the soul is purified through suffering and gradually rises again to the human platform.
  • After attaining the heavenly planets the soul remains until it has exhausted it’s pious credits and then falls again to earth.
  • Although some Hindus aspire to reach the heavenly planets at death, most consider liberation the highest goal, either by merging into Brahman (the all-pervading spirit) or by returning to the spiritual world. Many Vaishnavas (worshippers of Vishnu) consider prema (love of God) to be a higher goal than liberation, which they consider comes automatically by divine grace.
  • The thoughts at the time of death determine the soul’s destination. Hence the practice by many believers to practice japa, bhajan or kirtan (see Fact Sheet 14) as death approaches to help fix the mind on the Lord.
  • Important verses on the soul and reincarnation can be found in the Bhagavad Gita, as follows: 2.13,2.20, 2.22, 2.72, 4.5, 6.41-45, 8.5-6, 9.20-21, 9.25, 13.22, 13.24, 14.15-16, 14.18, 15.8-12, 16.13-22, 18.55-56.

“Coming Back – The Science of Reincarnation” is available for £1.50 (including postage and packing) from ISKCON Educational Services. This small book includes three reincarnation stories from the Puranas, as well as a thorough exploration of the subject.

A full colour poster, “The Cycle of Birth and Death”, (measuring 19” x 27” on canvas paper) is also available from IES for £5.00 inclusive of postage and packing.