Reincarnation in Hinduism

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Reincarnation or transmigration of souls is a fundamental tenet of Hinduism. Through many lives, a soul eventually becomes free from the cycle of rebirth and attains moksha, or liberation. Some Hindu sects believe that one can be reborn as an animal.


The immortal self will be reborn in a new body due to its meritorious deeds. (Rigveda I.164.48)

Bhagavad Gita

Just as a man discards worn out clothes and puts on new clothes, the soul discards worn out bodies and wears new ones. (2.22)

Even if you think that the physical body takes birth and dies perpetually, even then, O Arjuna, you should not grieve like this. Because death is certain for the one who is born, and birth is certain for the one who dies. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable. (2.26-27)

Krishna: Both I and thou have passed through many births! Mine are known unto me, but thou knowest not of thine. . . . I incarnate from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness.

No effort is ever lost in selfless service, and there is no adverse effect. Even a little practice of the discipline of selfless service protects one from the great fear of repeated birth and death. (2.40)

They are dominated by material desires, and consider the attainment of heaven as the highest goal of life. They engage in specific rites for the sake of prosperity and enjoyment. Rebirth is the result of their action. (2.43)

Karma-yogis are freed from the bondage of rebirth due to renouncing the selfish attachment to the fruits of all work, and attain blissful divine state of salvation or Nirvana. (2.51)

Persons, whose mind and intellect are totally merged in the Supreme Being, who are firmly devoted to the Supreme, who have God as their supreme goal and sole refuge, and whose impurities are destroyed by the knowledge of the self, do not take birth again. (5.17)

The less evolved unsuccessful yogi is reborn in the house of the pious and prosperous after attaining heaven and living there for many years. The highly evolved unsuccessful yogi does not go to heaven, but is born in a spiritually advanced family. A birth like this is very difficult, indeed, to obtain in this world. (6.41-42)

After many births the enlightened one resorts to Me by realizing that everything is, indeed, My (or Supreme Being’s) manifestation. Such a great soul is very rare. (7.19)

Those who strive for freedom from the cycles of birth, old age, and death — by taking refuge in God — fully comprehend the true nature and powers of the Supreme. (7.29)

After attaining Me, the great souls do not incur rebirth in this miserable transitory world, because they have attained the highest perfection. (8.15)

The dwellers of all the worlds  up to and including the world of the creator  are subject to the miseries of repeated birth and death. But, after attaining Me, O Arjuna, one does not take birth again.  (8.16)

There is another eternal transcendental existence  higher than the changeable material Nature  called Eternal Being or Spirit that does not perish when all created beings perish. This is also called the Supreme Abode. Those who attain the Supreme Abode do not take birth again. (8.20-21)

The path of light of spiritual practice and Self-knowledge and the path of darkness of materialism and ignorance are thought to be the world’s two eternal paths. The former leads to salvation and the latter leads to rebirth as human beings. (8.26)

O Arjuna, those who have no faith in this knowledge do not attain Me, and follow the cycles of birth and death. (9.03)

The doers of the rituals prescribed in the Vedas, the drinkers of the nectar of devotion, and whose sins are cleansed, worship Me by doing good deeds for gaining heaven. As a result of their meritorious deeds they go to heaven and enjoy celestial sense pleasures. (9.20) They return to the mortal world  after enjoying the wide world of heavenly pleasures  upon exhaustion of the fruits of their good Karma. Thus following the injunctions of the Vedas, persons working for the fruit of their actions take repeated birth and death.  (9.21)

Because I, the Supreme Being, alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services, and Lord of the universe. But people do not know My true transcendental nature. Therefore, they fall into the repeated cycles of birth and death. (9.24)

When one dies during the dominance of passion, one is reborn as attached to action (or the utilitarian type); and dying in ignorance, one is reborn as lower creatures. (14.15)

They who are established in goodness go to heaven; passionate persons are reborn in the mortal world; and the insipid ones, abiding in the mode of ignorance, go to lower planets of hell, or take birth as lower creatures depending on the degree of their ignorance. (14.18)


By means of thought, touch, sight and passions and by the abundance of food and drink there are birth and development of the (embodied) self. According to his deeds, the embodied self assumes successively various forms in various conditions. (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 5,11).

According as one acts, according as one behaves, so does he become. The doer of good becomes good. The doer of evil becomes evil. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4,4,5)

As a man passes from dream to wakefulness, so does he pass at death from this life to the next. When a man is about to die, the subtle body, mounted by the intelligent Self, groans–as a heavily laden cart groans under its burden.
When his body becomes thin through old age or disease, the dying man separates himself from his limbs, even as a mango or a fig or a banyan fruit separates itself from its stalk, and by the same way that he came he hastens to his new abode, and there assumes another body, in which to begin a new life. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:3:33-36)

As a leech, having reached the end of a blade of grass, takes hold of another blade and draws itself to it, so the Self, having left this body behind it unconscious, takes hold of another body and draws himself to it.(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:4:3)

As a goldsmith, taking an old gold ornament, molds it into another, newer and more beautiful, so the Self, having given up the body and left it unconscious, takes on a newer and better form, either that of the fathers, or that of the celestial singers, or that of the gods, or that of other beings, heavenly or earthly.(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:4:4)

A man acts according to the desires to which he clings. After death he goes to the next world bearing in his mind the subtle impressions of his deeds; and after reaping there the harvest of his deeds, he returns again to this world of action. Thus he who has desires continues subject to rebirth.
But he in whom desire is stilled suffers no rebirth. After death, having attained to the highest, desiring only the Self, he goes to no other world. Realizing Brahman, he becomes Brahman. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:4:6)

That master of the chariot, however, who is associated with a discriminating intellect, and being endowed with a controlled mind, is ever pure, attains that goal from which he is not born again. (Katha Upanishad 1.3.8)

According, those who are of pleasant conduct here– the prospect is indeed, that they will enter a pleasant womb, either the womb of a Brahman, of the womb of a Kshatriya, or the womb of a Vaisya. But those who are of stinking conduct here – the prospect is, indeed, that they will enter a stinking womb, either the worn of a dog, or the womb of a swine, or the womb of an outcast. (Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.7)

Some Jivas (individual Souls) enter wombs to be embodied; others go into immovable forms, according to their deeds and knowledge. (Katha Upanishad 5.7)


The murderer of a brahmin becomes consumptive, the killer of a cow becomes hump-backed and imbecile, the murderer of a virgin becomes leprous – all three born as outcastes. The slayer of a woman and the destroyer of embryos becomes a savage full of diseases; who commits illicit intercourse, a eunuch; who goes with his teacher’s wife, disease-skinned. The eater of flesh becomes very red; the drinker of intoxicants, one with discolored teeth…. Who steals food becomes a rat; who steals grain becomes a locust… perfumes, a muskrat; honey, a gadfly; flesh, a vulture; and salt, an ant…. Who commits unnatural vice becomes a village pig; who consorts with a Sudra woman becomes a bull; who is passionate becomes a lustful horse…. These and other signs and births are seen to be the karma of the embodied, made by themselves in this world. Thus the makers of bad karma, having experienced the tortures of hell, are reborn with the residues of their sins, in these stated forms (Garuda Purana 5).

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

2.7 Attachment is that magnetic pattern which clusters in pleasure and pulls one towards such experience.
2.8 Aversion is the magnetic pattern which clusters in misery and pushes one from such experience.
2.9 Flowing by its own energy, established even in the wise and in the foolish, is the unending desire for life.
2.10 These patterns when subtle may be removed by developing their contraries.
2.11 Their active afflictions are to be destroyed by meditation.
2.12 The impressions of works have their roots in afflictions and arise as experience in the present and the future births.
2.13 When the root exists, its fruition is birth, life and experience.

Ramana Maharshi

The real Self is continuous and unaffected. The reincarnating ego belongs to the lower plane, namely, thought. It is transcended by Self-realisation.