If the individual soul is itself a product of birth and that soul is only a formation so long as the body remains, and that formation ceases then what will be reborn? There is nothing to be reborn. It comes into being with the body, it dies with the body then the question of rebirth does not arise. If the individual is only a temporary formation, beginning and ending with the body then evolution can still be there but rebirth will not be there. Rebirth does not exist and is not needed as a mechanism of that evolution. This is the second possible formulation of the data.
The third alternative, or if the All Existent 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. There is a theory according to which the individual is a temporary formation but not beginning with the body and ending with the body.
The third alternative is that the soul or individual is a temporary formation, but persistent. That is to say that it may be argued that even when the human body dies, there is an inner formation of the individual which still continues to subsist or persist but it is temporary and ultimately it is illusory. That is to say that at a certain stage you will find that it was a false notion that there was an individual at all. This is the view of Buddhism and of Mayavada both of which maintain that the individual is a temporary but persistent, ultimately illusory Reality. According to Buddhism an individual consists of Samskaras. There is a distinction between the human body and the human individual. The human body simply consists of matter but human individual consists of samskaras, consisting of impressions, sensations, images, ideas, desires, impulses and thoughts. You make a complex of all this which is housed in this body. This complex is different from the human body. Therefore when the human body dies this formation can still remain and this complex can incarnate into another body, it comes of this body and goes into another body and develops further on and on and on until it reaches a point, an accentuating point where there is an experience of acute suffering, acute sense of bondage, and one begins to ask the question ‘what am I? Why am I bound to be in this condition where I am?’ Until you reach this point, you go on taking birth from body to body and when you reach this question then you begin your enquiry. May be that that enquiry is not finished in that particular body, then again you come out into another body and the enquiry continues. A point is reached when you discover that actually all that you called yourself is only a temporary formation and this temporary formation has persisted for a long time, over long, long years, coming out from one body to another. Then you discover that this formation can be broken because it is temporary. If by nature it was not temporary you could not break it. So you find out if it is breakable, this formation can be broken. And when you break it you find that actually it was a fluff, it was ‘tuchchha’ which means it was nothing actually. Because when it is broken you find that there is something quite different, which has no connection at all with all that was happening all around. It is ‘Shunya’ as in Buddhism, which is what you find after you break your individuality, there is ‘shunya’. There is no connection. This formation was real fluff. It was like a bubble that bursts or you find it is entirely an immobile self. This bubble was mobile all the time, whereas what you discover is not shunya but an immobile Reality, completely silent in it self, in which there is no possibility of any movement at all, so even a temporary formation which has movement was possible right in the beginning. If you reach shunya it is called nirvana. In Shankar’s philosophy when you reach the Immobile Reality, it is the stage of moksha or liberation. The temporary formation is dissolved then. You find it was not there at all, it was illusory and did not exist at all.
If these are the data, then rebirth may be a fact, but rebirth is not a necessity; there is a difference between the two. There is no logical necessity that there must to be rebirth. If the individual is a temporary formation it can theoretically be broken any time. Why should it be broken only at a given time when you are accentuated and all that. Theoretically, there is no reason why it should persist for a long time. It may persist; it may not persist. Both the conclusions are possible. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo says, rebirth does not become a necessity. Birth may exist. But it does not become necessary. Both Buddhism and Shankara’s Mayavada believes in rebirth. But under the data given there rebirth is a possibility but not a necessity. This is the third possibility.
We come to a fourth alternative. 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 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 or future. Its path in the future may be elsewhere.
This is the view of some of the major religions of the world of today, not Hinduism, not Buddhism, not Jainism but all the other religions, Islam, Christianity, Judaism; they believe that there is an individual soul which inhabits this body but the soul does not have evolutionary purpose. It believes that there is a soul, not a temporary formation, nor an illusory formation. It is something which is different from the human body; it is different even from samskaras.