Do Baha’is believe in reincarnation?

Some feel that they experience ‘inklings’ or ‘visions’ of past lives, such as deja-vu or feeling ‘connected’ to locations. Baha’is believe that reincarnation, though, is not an adequate explanation. To feel like you are in the same situation as you were before would imply that you lived the ‘exact’ same life as before, which would mean reincarnation is nothing more than continuous re-runs of our existence, and thus completely pointless. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “Now observe that in the sensible world appearances are not repeated, for no being in any respect is identical with, nor the same as, another being. The sign of singleness is visible and apparent in all things. If all the granaries of the world were full of grain, you would not find two grains absolutely alike, the same and identical without any distinction. It is certain that there will be differences and distinctions between them. As the proof of uniqueness exists in all things, and the Oneness and Unity of God is apparent in the reality of all things, the repetition of the same appearance is absolutely impossible. Therefore, reincarnation, which is the repeated appearance of the same spirit with its former essence and condition in this same world of appearance, is impossible and unrealizable.” (Abdu’l-Baha, SAQ, p. 283). Abdu’l-Baha goes on to explain that even if a leaf appears again every season, it is still a different leaf with its own birth and death. The same leaf will never appear twice.

Baha’is do believe that our souls progress, develop, and grow through many stages. But they do not believe that this existence is limited to this petty material world around us. Baha’is see this world as a reflection of a far deeper reality that is beyond our comprehension. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote of this material world, “This cup was not so sweet that one would care to drink of it a second time.”(SWA, p. 183). The problem with reincarnation is that no one on the earth is living a truly ‘rewarding’ life. Everyone suffers in various forms. Poor and rich alike in this world are often unhappy and unsatisfied. On the other hand, even the lowliest person can be happy, content, and satisfied; whereas the wealthiest of people can be cruel, resentful, and evil. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “When thou lookest about thee with a perceptive eye, thou wilt note that on this dusty earth all humankind are suffering. Here no man is at rest as a reward for what he hath performed in former lives; nor is there anyone so blissful as seemingly to pluck the fruit of bygone anguish.” (SWA p. 184).

Sadly, there are many wealthy individuals who might claim to a belief in reincarnation in order to avoid any sense of responsibility for helping the poor and underprivileged. These people hide behind an imaginary veil that somehow the unfortunate souls in this world must deserve their lot. Baha’is renounce this belief. Baha’is believe that an All-Loving God deals justice for all, and those who live in poverty and suffer will be comforted and rewarded for enduring their unfortunate lot with patience and grace. Those who are lucky enough to pull themselves out of poverty will also see that they have gained valuable spiritual skills of resilience and strength. On the other hand, those who are wealthy in this lifetime, and who squander their wealth on material toys and pleasures while ignoring the masses of suffering around them will no doubt face the Lord’s justice.

In the end, Baha’is believe this earthly reality is a womb-world. They believe after we die we will find ourselves in a liberated condition where our new spiritual limbs and organs are put to use, and where we will truly begin to understand the nature of our own existence. So just as any human being who has been born and lived in the world would find a return to the womb completely unnatural and incredibly limiting—so too the idea of returning to this material world after death would be a pointless and terrifying proposition.

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