Cycle of rebirth A logical view
A perspective that the rebirth concept is completely virtual and just to keep us well behaved in our only real life An important belief in Hinduism...
A perspective that the rebirth concept is completely virtual and just to keep us well behaved in our only real life
An important belief in Hinduism is that human life is churned through several iterations of rebirth until one has paid for her (his) misdeeds so s(he) can be united with the purported almighty. Have you ever wondered if this is really the case? And questioned if this makes sense from a logical argument. Here is a counter perspective that the rebirth concept is completely virtual and just to keep us well behaved in our only real life.
A critical ingredient of new life is genes; they contain a blueprint of information and provide a fundamental framework for building the body and endowing it with the inherited physical traits. The body focuses on sustaining itself as we perambulate through life acquiring consciousness and cognitive skills. Our genes mutate via natural selection and make us heirs to knowledge won through many generations. Once the physical body or soma (as called by Greeks) is created each organism experiences life uniquely until it perishes.
Each of us come into this life with latent knowledge of many an aspect of the world, how to breathe, how to cry, etc. There are, however, a multitude of things that we begin to acquire via instruction from parents, teachers, friends, experiences, etc. Cause and effect exposure is the most common way of explaining and educating a toddler or child about a physical phenomenon such as "touch a hot body and you will get burnt", "kick a soccer ball and it will move".
It is quite easy for the kid to understand these kinds of phenomenon since the effect is instantaneous. But, how do we teach concepts which have large gestations and whose effects surface many years later "smoking will cause damages, refrain from doing it", "a life of baser instincts will be shallow in the end", "a life involved in criminal activities will be hurtful and is not righteous" etc. It is hard to teach folks these concepts as they age through life especially since we all get attached to our Somas.
How then can one be forced to become conscientious and righteous? This is where we introduced karma, dharma, hell, heaven, etc and instilled fear into people about the repercussions for evil actions and intentions. This was our way of influencing people to stay in the normal operating regime that would keep societies stable, conscientious, and righteous. We were scared by parental folks from a young age that we have to take many rebirths until we wash our sins with the hope that this paradigm would serve as an inhibitor.
The core of my argument is that genes only transmit what we have inherited and mutate that into a different form in our offspring. There is physically no way for acquired knowledge to be transmitted to the offspring. All acquired knowledge and consciousness of the self is gone once we expire! Our actions in this life can therefore have absolutely no influence on our future lives (if any?). If the genes are predisposed to cancer, even if one generation manages to survive the cancer by careful diet or exercise, they cannot make the next generation immune.
We can only bring about immunity by wiping out the cause, like small pox , chicken pox, etc. Our genes give us the hardware (soma or body) including our brain configuration. Our brain through experience, learning, and contemplation, evolves the software (neuronal connections, mind, subconscious acts, involuntary responses, etc) to control the body. Genes can only generate the body; experiences create the mind. These experiences are unique to a person since a person and his dynamically changing environment form a clique.
Here is an example of a natural trait that only women inherit and proves that inherited abilities trump what one acquires and passes onto the next generation. In spite of similar stress levels women outlive men by 5 to 6 years because of genetic predisposition. Our genes viewed the body as a vehicle to propagate through and not as a permanent entity to live in. Since women give birth to children their genes are programmed to maintain and quickly recover the health of the female body to help with child birth. Of course you can exercise and prolong the inevitable but you cannot pass on that extra immunity to your offspring.
So in summary, Soma is the vehicle that dies after it serves its purpose of allowing us to experience life. The genes, however, are immortal and help propagate the train of life through their myriad manifestations. That in my belief is the essence of the rebirth paradigm. Instead of waiting to get out of the virtual cycle of life and rebirth, we should aim to enjoy the one life that we really have to the fullest way -- of course in a conscientious and righteous way.