Humming in my universe
By Jim Paredes
“Why should we be startled by death? Life is a constant putting off of the mortal coil – coat, cuticle, flesh and bones, all old clothes.” — H.D. Thoreau
Since it’s that time of the year when we think about the dead, I thought I’d write about the ‘otherwordly’ realm. No ghost stories or anything paranormal since I suspect that’s what everyone will be writing about. I thought I’d write about something that more and more people are starting to believe in, and that is reincarnation.
Reincarnation is an ancient concept that is widely believed by many religions—Hinduism, Jainism, Sikkhism, Kabbalah, Sufism and even Gnostic Christianity. Basically, it says that a person who dies is ‘made flesh’ once again to inhabit the earth as a new personality in another time, or times. There is a thread that ties these lives together as the soul purportedly goes through several life travels to repay karma and to evolve.
Many people believe in karma and logically, they must also believe in reincarnation. I have met quite a few who claim to have had a past life or two. While it can neither be proven nor disproved, I find it funny that many of those who talk about their so-called past reincarnations, always claim connection to some ancient royal line. They were almost always princesses, princes, queens or pharaohs or some other glamorous title-holding royal who lived in some exotic time. No one claims to have been, say, a mere shepherd, a fisherman or a slave.
I had my brush with reincarnation (I like to romanticize that I actually did) some years back during a visit to Nepal. Nepalese culture and society acknowledge the phenomenon of a living Goddess in their midst called the Kumari Devi. The Goddess is supposedly the reincarnation of the Goddess Taleju who, according to legend, appeared as a young woman to the King of Nepal centuries ago. Daily, she would visit the king to play chess with him, until one day, the king made a pass at her which displeased her. As a result, Taleju ordered that the king from then on would have to undergo the rite of ‘legitimization’ yearly, in her hands, personified by a reincarnated pre-pubescent girl known as the Kumari Devi.
By tradition, the Kumari Devi is a young girl with 32 outstanding characteristics who must undergo rigorous tests. And once chosen, she remains a Goddess until she menstruates. Then another rigorous process is done to find the next personification of the Kumari Devi.
My brush with this reincarnated being happened in her courtyard. Normally, tourists who wish to see the Kumari Devi put money in a bowl in the courtyard and call out her name. She very rarely responds to calls, but to my luck and surprise, the two times I called, she bestowed fleeting glances at me from her second floor window, much to the envy of the other tourists around.
Another reason I find reincarnation fascinating is because I have relationships with certain people that cut deep on a level and quality that seems different from other deep and close relationships I have. My sister Lory, my son Mio, my co-APOs Danny Javier and Boboy Garrovillo are just some of the people with whom I have a special bond that seems to be intensely close and intertwined. I have often wondered whether my relationship with them in this life is part of karmic ties and dramas that originated in some past life.
Some scientists have given suggestive evidence that reincarnation may be factually true. There have been many investigations done on this subject. Scientists have examined the memories of people who have asserted that they have had past lives and put their claims under an investigative, historical microscope and found them to be quite plausible in some cases, and very believable in others.
I have not really made up my mind whether or not to believe in reincarnation, at least in the literal sense. I do know that it serves a purpose for man to believe in such things. Christians believe in a God who created man, and God is the be-all and end-all of existence. Similarly, reincarnation suggests that we did not come from nothing, that there was a precedent, and therefore a source of our existence. Furthermore, it suggests a continuation of some sort of life after death. When taken to be lyrically or symbolically true, it suggests that our lives are actually bigger than we can ever imagine it to be – originating from somewhere and unraveling repeatedly through many generations after our death until we reach the state of perfection of one who is enlightened.
Through the continuous cycle of rebirth and death, we are purified and reborn into higher versions of what being human can possibly be.
It is pleasant to think that we can come back in another life and do what we failed to do in our previous one. It is exciting to listen to people who entertain the possibility of reincarnation talking about who or what kind of person they would like to be when they return. Royalty? Someone famous? An actor or an actress, a rock star or a world leader? I have met people who choose to come back as animals.
In my case, if reincarnation is at all possible, I would like to come back as an era, a period of history with a certain ambience. Think about the renaissance, or the 60’s, some impressionistic era that captivated artists. Or how about something similar to the hippie movement that dared to dream something different. I would like to be a spirit or zeitgeist where a great number of people are captivated by the idea of being free spirits expressing themselves as creatively as possible. Call me a New Ager, but I resonate with how the 60’s group, The Fifth Dimension, described the Age of Aquarius:
‘Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding;
No more falsehood or derision
Golden living dreams of vision
Mystic crystal revelation
And the minds true liberation
I’m almost sure the vision of Aquarius will not happen in my lifetime, although there are those who argue that it is already beginning. Perhaps. Whether or not it is, I just want to end this piece with this simple phrase:
‘See you next time’.