This particular chapter before us is entitled,
‘Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, The Soul and Immortality.’
The first line says:
“Our first conclusion on the subject of reincarnation has been that the rebirth of the soul in successive terrestrial bodies is an inevitable consequence of the original significance and process of the manifestation in earth–nature…”
This is a difficult sentence and it refers to our first conclusion which has already gone before this chapter. It will be best if I gave you in one paragraph where this conclusion has been arrived at in the previous chapters. I will give you one page on it.
This is the last paragraph of a chapter prior to this chapter and that chapter is entitled ‘The Philosophy of Rebirth’.
Next to that is another chapter called ‘Order of the Worlds’ and then is this chapter we are going to read ‘Rebirth and Other Worlds’. But to read all three chapters would have been a very difficult task and much of it is largely philosophy.
I thought this last chapter is very good, provided we read this one paragraph from this earlier chapter. In this one paragraph which is there, Sri Aurobindo sums up the philosophy of rebirth.
On what basic data can rebirth be inevitable? This is the question he puts in this chapter and proves that these being the data, the facts, rebirth becomes inevitable. He sums up the whole thing in one paragraph:
“This then is the rational and philosophical foundation for a belief in rebirth; it is an inevitable logical conclusion if there exists at the same time an evolutionary principle in the Earth–Nature and a reality of the individual soul born into evolutionary Nature. If there is no soul, then there can be a mechanical evolution without necessity or significance and birth is only part of this curious but senseless machinery. If the individual is only a temporary formation beginning and ending with the body, then evolution can be a play of the All–Soul or Cosmic. Existence mounting through a progression of higher and higher species towards its own utmost possibility in this Becoming or to its highest conscious principle; rebirth does not exist and is not needed as a mechanism of that evolution. Or, if the All–Existence expresses itself in a persistent but illusory individuality, rebirth becomes a possibility or an illusory fact, but it has no evolutionary necessity and is not a spiritual necessity; it is only a means of accentuating and prolonging the illusion up to its utmost time–limit. If there is an individual soul or Purusha not dependent on the body but inhabiting and using it for its purpose, then rebirth begins to be possible, but it is not a necessity if there is no evolution of the soul in Nature the presence of the individual soul in an individual body may be a passing phenomenon, a single experience without a past here or a future; its past and its future may be elsewhere. But if there is an evolution of consciousness in an evolutionary body and a soul inhabiting the body, a real and conscious individual, then it is evident that it is the progressive experience of that soul in Nature which takes the form of this evolution of consciousness: rebirth is self–evidently a necessary part, the sole possible machinery of such an evolution. It is as necessary as birth itself; for without it birth would be an initial step without a sequel, the starting of a journey without its farther steps and arrival. It is rebirth that gives to the birth of an incomplete being in a body its promise of completeness and its spiritual significance.”
Sri Aurobindo takes all the data and then arrives at a conclusion out of it. There is one simple data before us and that is the data of effects that life has evolved in matter and mind in life. This is an indubitable fact. In any case we find the human body which is indubitable; you cannot doubt it that is a fact. The human body first of all is material, it has pulsation and it is capable of thinking, these three facts are joined up together in this particular human body. According to the modern thought of evolution, coming together these three things in man is because of a long process; where first there was matter for a long time, then in some insignificant corner a germ began to pulsate, out of that life–forms came out, variety of them, millions of them. But these forms had no intelligence in them, e.g. a blade of grass, bacteria – had no intelligence in them. But gradually in some of the life forms some kind of intelligence began to appear – some kind of mind and then you came to the human body and in the human being, mind as a power of conception becomes very clear. These are the three steps which have come up according to the modern theory of evolution – matter, life and mind.
We do find that birth is a very curious phenomenon. As Sri Aurobindo says in one of the places, – birth is a first mystery by which human beings are intrigued and death is another mystery which reinforces the mystery of birth, so birth may remain a kind of a mystery or one might say a senseless mystery because there is nothing fundamental to look into.
This world is just like this, a manifestation of matter, life and mind. It is like you prepare hundreds of dishes for a feast and then somebody comes from the neighborhood and says what have you done, have you invited thousands of people? You suddenly realise that nobody has been invited. This big feast seems to be senseless, meaningless, has no significance. Whenever we use the word significance, there is a special meaning in it. Significance means, significance for the experiencer. All significance in the world is significant for the experiencer, for the enjoyer, for one who is going to enjoy; if there is nobody to enjoy anything it is not significant. You may write twenty books but if neither you enjoy them after reading or writing them nor is anybody else going to read them, it is a senseless exercise. It may be there, it is not impossible. The world may be a senseless, mechanical necessity in which these things are happening. But it has no significance.
That’s what Sri Aurobindo says , “….If there is no soul then there can be a mechanical evolution without necessity or significance and birth is only part of this curious but senseless machinery. If the individual is only a temporary formation, beginning and ending with the body then evolution can be a play of the all soul or cosmic existence, mounting through a progression of higher and higher species towards its own utmost possibility of becoming or to its highest conscious principle, but rebirth does not exist and is not needed as a mechanism of that evolution.”