In a post yesterday afternoon, Ta-wan broached the topic of reincarnation. In all honesty, I always thought the concept was daft! The very idea that a self could go through several lifetimes just seemed silly to me, so I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Lately, however, I have started looking into Zen and the subject has reared its head. I still think the idea of reincarnation, in a formal sense, is crazy, but I am open to modifying my previous rejection of the concept somewhat.
For one thing, I know that the "bodies" of plants are reincarnated as a matter of rule. The plant dies and its component parts decompose and return to the soil where, in time, it brings forth new life. Since we don't know if plants have "souls" or "auras," there is no way to know if some type of spiritual (for lack of a better word) component is passed on to this new life. It could be so or it may not.
From this standpoint, I suppose the human body could perform the same function. Of course, most human bodies are placed in boxes or are cremated at death. Therefore, the effort of most such bodies to serve as the cradle of new found life is thwarted.
There is another way I might be willing to entertain the notion of reincarnation. Since as soon as we experience a moment, it dies -- it no longer exists, except in our memory -- one could say we are reincarnated every second. The person we were in the moment passed is no more, so we become a new person with each new moment.
This new person is somewhat like the old person, but it's not the same person. Cells in our bodies have died and been replaced by new ones. In every moment that we experience life, our consciousness changes. While we feel a certain continuity between this changing self from moment to moment, it really is nothing more than a trick of perception.
Hmm. I need to ponder this some more...