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Metempsychosis








After the disintegration of the body, the kamic[92] elements continue
for some time, us a "shade"[93] or a "phantom,"[94] in the finer and
invisible atmosphere;[95] then they, in turn, become disintegrated by
the various forces of this environment,[96] and are lost in the strata
of matter from which they have been taken. Like the physical elements
(life-atoms), they whirl about in their environment and there submit
to the same law of attraction and repulsion as that which controls
universal selection; they are drawn towards the kamic elements of men
and animals, and it is here that we ought to place the list of those
misdeeds, by reason of which these elements pass into bodies of
animals or men of inferior development. "A drunken priest becomes a
worm," says Manu, "a stealer of corn, a rat; the murderer of a
Brahman, a dog, a tiger, or a serpent"--and this means that those
elements which, in man, serve as a basis for the passions, at death,
pass over into the bodies of animals that possess the same passions or
experience the same needs.

The transmigration of human souls into the bodies of animals is still
generally accepted amongst the less intelligent Hindus; it has
contributed, perhaps more than anything else, to that wonderful
respect for life one meets with all over India. The thought that some
ancestor or other might happen to be in the body of an animal prevents
its destruction; even the sacrifice of his life offered by a man to
one of his brothers in the animal world is regarded as a sublime
virtue, and legend tells us of the Buddha, the Lord of Compassion,
giving himself up as food for a famishing tigress, that she and her
cubs might not perish of hunger.





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