Reincarnation in Bhagavad-gita

soul changing body

“As the embodied soul continually passes in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”

– Bhagavad-gita 2.13

Reincarnation has been one of the most intriguing topics since ancient times. The word “reincarnation” is derived from Latin, which means “entering the flesh again”. Also the Greeks called reincarnation as Palin genesis – “being born again”. However in the Indian subcontinent, reincarnation is a widely accepted belief which is interrelated with “Karma” or Action. – “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

The Bhagavad-gita provides valuable insight on the concept of reincarnation which refers to the passing of soul from one body to another referred to as the Transmigration of the Soul. Lord Krishna lays the fundamental concept in the spiritual science by instructing His friend Arjuna that every living entity is a spirit soul and there is no need to grieve for the death of anyone as the soul would take up a new body according to its karmic results.

Lord Krishna assumes the role of the guru and instructs Arjuna that there is no need to lament for the dead. Also, the warriors with whom Arjuna was about to fight had existed in the past, were existing now and would continue to exist in the future and as such none would be able to destroy the imperishable soul for it is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval in nature.

Lord Krishna then provides the information of the soul as a spiritual particle upon which products of material energy – air, water, fire and weapons would not have any effect as it is unbreakable, immutable and insoluble and is everlasting, all-pervading, invisible as well as inconceivable.

Lord Krishna then explains the process of reincarnation by providing the analogy of the soul accepting a new material body, and the way a person puts on new garments when the current ones become unusable. In conclusion, Lord Krishna mentions that for anyone who is born, death is certain; and for one who dies, birth is inevitable, thus establishing the transmigration of the soul. So, there is actually no need to lament upon anyone’s death.

In the fifteenth chapter, Lord Krishna further mentions about how transmigration occurs based on the consciousness developed by the person up till the time of death. As the air carries aromas in a subtle way, the soul moves on to a new body according to the karma and consciousness one has developed in the current lifetime. In Chapter 9, Sloka 9, Lord Krishna mentions how consciousness affects in getting a new body by obtaining a certain type of ear, tongue, and nose and sense of touch, which are centered about the mind according to one’s desires and past actions.

According to the Padma Purana, there are nine lakh species of aquatics, 20 lakh immovable species (trees), 11 lakh species of insects and reptiles, 10 lakh species of birds, 30 lakh varieties of quadrupeds, 4 lakh human species among which one can obtain a particular body.

The Solution to Stop Reincarnation

Sripad Shankaracharya mentions that one should worship and chant Govinda only, as there is no other way to cross the life’s ocean of miseries other than chanting the name of Govinda.

Sukadeva Goswami in the Bhagavat Purana mentions that although Kali-yuga is filled with doshas, problems, the only good thing is that one can cross the ocean of repeated births and deaths by chanting the holy names of Lord Krishna and thus be promoted to Lord Krishna’s abode.

In 1486 AD, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (an incarnation of Lord Krishna) took compassion upon the living entities and provided the simplest way to get out from the entanglement of birth and death, which is by chanting the 16 syllable maha mantra:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

The Kali Santarana Upanishad mentions that these sixteen names consisting of Hare, Krishna and Rama are the only means of counteracting the evil effects of the Kali-yuga.

By chanting, one can overcome all the miseries of the material world (birth, old age, disease and death) and proceed to the spiritual world. Coming in the disciplic succession of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada, on the order of his guru, went to the western countries, established 108 ISKCON temples and distributed the Holy Names of Lord Krishna, providing every soul an equal opportunity to transcend the material sufferings, thereby stopping the process of reincarnation and thus acquiring our original blissful nature as the servant of the servant of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna.


Wikipedia – for references to Latin and Greek origins

Bhagavad-gita As It Is by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada

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