Are you wondering about reincarnation and its place in the teaching of nonduality?
The teaching of Advaita Vedanta — also known simply as Advaita — is part of Hindu tradition. Advaita addresses your questions of karma and reincarnation. Dvaita means duality, and the ‘A’ prefix confers the ‘non’ portion. Advaita = Nonduality.
Advaita means nonduality, and nonduality means ‘not two.’ While things, events, phenomena appear to be separate, in reality there are not two — not separate — things.
Advaita is a tradition which takes the student through steps of knowledge leading to the full recognition of reality as nondual. Neither Advaita nor Buddhism nor other teachings in their advanced forms talk about reincarnation or soul development. Those experiences are not more special than other experiences. However, if questions about reincarnation are important to you, they need to be addressed.
In Advaita, one of the steps on the way to nondual understanding is the teaching of karma, free will, and reincarnation. This step is not the ultimate teaching of Advaita. The ultimate teaching is that there is only reality, God, Christ, Truth, The Eternal Self, The Kingdom of God, Oneness, or whatever you wish to call it.
It’s important to have a sense of the ultimate teaching while investigating your urgent questions, such as reincarnation.
One way of keeping the ultimate teaching present, is to resort to a metaphor.
View burning questions and intense emotions as the rising of waves in the ocean. Any wave can be tremendously awesome, hugely violent, or small and calmly gentle. Yet no wave is separate from the great, vast ocean. The ocean is the nondual self, the eternal Self, the real you. While Advaita teaches about the qualities of waves, the ultimate teaching is about the ocean itself.
I suggest that Advaita is the best context in which to pursue questions about reincarnation for one who senses nondual reality. If you wish to look into Advaita, begin at this page on Dennis Waite’s site. Also, Dennis’s books are the best guides to Advaita. In Back To The Truth he speaks specifically about reincarnation.
Chuck Hillig’s classic, Enlightenment for Beginners, brings reincarnation into the view of nondual reality. Chuck is a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, who is mentioned below.
Finally, note that the very same teacher of Advaita (or nonduality) will one moment explain reincarnation in detail and at the next moment deny there is such a thing as reincarnation.
Do not let the apparent contradiction confuse you. Do not be offended or insulted by any response. The teacher is speaking to different needs of different people. He is giving the answer that would best serve the specific student. Simply hone in on the response that is right for you and don’t worry about the rest, for now.
For example, look at this teaching from one of the great sages of Advaita, Ramana Maharshi.
Advaita requires that one know the source of questions about reincarnation. Until one is ready to approach that knowledge, and in order to stimulate curiosity about that knowledge, careful answers about reincarnation are given. So are answers given to questions about karma, free will, desire, creation, purpose, happiness, and the world in general.
Advaita is a full path to full knowledge of the Self.
Neo-Advaita? Well, that’s another story. Neo-Advaita is the confession, claim, report, or description of existence and reality from the point of view of one who has attained full knowledge of the Self. Some people are in such a disposition that they can hear one of these confessions and awaken to the full knowledge of Self. But many cannot. For those who cannot, the path of Advaita is available.