The concept of birth, death, re-birth and Moksha is a recurring theme in Hindu epics and Puranas. Not just man/woman, the god is born as “Avatars” and then the god leaves the world for a while and is born again and again to restore Dharma(order).
Re-birth can happen both physically, spiritually, intellectually. Birth, death and re-birth is by no means limited to just physical decay of the body.
Let’s take an example from Mahabharata.
Yudhistira, the noble king of Hastinapura gambles away his kingdom. He bets his own brothers, his property, his kingdom and even his wife. He loses everything and retires into the Jungle.
Who was the first person whom Yudhisthira gambled away? It was Nakula. Why did he do so? Maybe because he was a step brother?
After Yudhisthira loses everything and leads a miserable life, he is re-born. His intellect is re-born, he realizes his own worth as a king and then time gives him another chance.
Yaksha kills all his 4 brothers and when he gets an opportunity to save only one brother, he chooses Nakula.
This is a simple example to demonstrate the re-birth of Yudhistira on the intellectual perspective.
In Hinduism, the universe is composed of mainly two things.
- Matter – Measurable, quantified,
- Mind – Non measurable, non quantified (Soul).
Whatever you see is composed of matter alone. Only the soul is moving. The soul moves around and hops from one body to another body to another body, until it attains Moksha.
This is why a ritual called “Shradh” is performed. If “Shradh” is not performed, the soul is not freed from this wordly chaos and cannot be re-born into another body. The soul must be free’d and allowed to take birth, otherwise how will it re-pay its debt and attain Moksha?
Hinduism believes that everything goes in circles, which also includes time. In Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna
There was never a time me and you weren’t here and there won’t be a time when we won’t be here. It is just the “Bhram” of your mind and you do not remember the details. Who knows what you will be in your next birth? You may be a cow or a serpent, this will be decided by the Karma you do now. Karma is the deciding factor since you change things through karma alone. Karma directly influences Dharma and the do’er is given his due prize/punishment.
There is no way one can escape the consequences of Karma. It is equivalent to Newton’s third law of motion, when any action you take will have some sort of reaction. Not a single particle in this universe can escape this law of Karma (the law of Force or the law of Action).
And since the soul never dies, it literally carries the debt of Karma or the equity of Karma (whatever it is). That debt has to be re-paid since one soul has troubled other souls for its own material benefit. The offender will have to come and re-pay his debt and hence, the whole system is a giant circle of birth and re-births.