The Maharshi was often questioned about death and reincarnation. He would sometimes answer: “Let us know first who we are” or “The birth of the ‘I-thought’ is one’s own birth, its death is the person’s death. After the ‘I’-thought has arisen the wrong identity with the body arises. Thinking yourself the body, you give false values to others and identify them with bodies. Just as your body has been born, grows and will perish, so also you think the other was born, grew up and died.”
In so many ways Bhagavan tried to bring home to us the true nature of the Self, which is eternal, unborn and free. When an illogical sequence in an apparent death and rebirth was brought to his attention, he would often cite Lila’s story from the Yoga Vasishta.
An elderly gentleman, formerly a co-worker with B. V. Narasimha Swami and author of some Vasishtadvaita work, visited the place for the first time. He asked about rebirths, if it is possible for the linga sarira (subtle body) to get dissolved and be reborn in two years after death.
Ramana Maharshi responded: “Yes. Surely. Not only can one be reborn, one may be twenty or forty or even seventy years old in the new body though only two years after death.”
In another documented case of reincarnation, a boy who is seven years now recalls his past births. Enquiries go to show that the previous body was given up 10 months ago.
The question arises how the matter stood for six years and two months previous to the death of the former body. Did the soul occupy two bodies at the same time?
Sri Bhagavan pointed out that the seven years is according to the boy; ten months is according to the observer. The difference is due to these two different upadhis (limiting adjuncts). The boy’s experience extending to seven years has been calculated by the observer to cover only 10 months of his own time. In order to explain this phenomenon, Sri Bhagavan again referred to Lila’s story in Yoga Vasishta.
O Goddess, you said that it was only eight days ago that the holy man had died; and yet my husband and I have lived for a long time [in the present birth]. How can you reconcile this discrepancy? (The “holy man” was reincarnated as Lila’s present husband, who had now again just died).
O Lila, just as space does not have a fixed span, time does not have a fixed span either. Just as the world and its creation are mere appearances, a moment and an epoch are also imaginary, not real. In the twinkling of an eye the jiva undergoes the illusion of the death-experience, forgets what happened before that, and in the infinite consciousness thinks ‘I am this’, etc., and ‘I am his son, I am so many years old’, etc. There is no essential difference between the experiences of this world and those of another – all this being thoughtforms in the infinite consciousness. They are like two waves in the same ocean. Since these worlds were never created, they will never cease to be: such is the law. Their real nature is consciousness.
Even as in a dream there is birth, death and relationship all in a very short time, and even as a lover feels that a single night without his beloved is an epoch, the jiva thinks of experienced and non-experienced objects in the twinkling of an eye. And, immediately thereafter, he imagines those things (the world) to be real. Even those things which he had not experienced nor seen present themselves before him as in a dream.
This world and this creation is nothing but memory and dream. Distance, measures of time like a moment and an age, all these are hallucinations. This is one kind of knowledge-memory. There is another which is not based on memory of past experience. This is the fortuitous meeting of an atom and consciousness which is then able to produce its own effects.
Liberation is the realization of the total nonexistence of the universe as such. This is different from a mere denial of the existence of the ego and the universe! The latter is only half-knowledge.
Liberation is to realize that all this is pure consciousness.
[Source: Talks 129 and 261 with Sri Ramana Maharshi & Yoga Vasistha]
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