Artwork by Tim Verhoeven
Metempsychosis is an early philosophical term referring to the transmigration of the soul, explicitly its reincarnation after death. Derived from Greek philosophy it is an earlier indicator that some separate ontological being transmigrates lifetime after lifetime. Theistic religions insist that there exists an individual substantial entity that constitutes the groundwork for all “personal experiences” that speculates on the continuation of said sentient being at the postmortem point. Thus the belief in personal immortality. There are more moderate stances that disengage from such speculative positions on the continuation of a “person”. Of course, within Unborn Mind Zen we know that when the five skhandas are disbanded, there no longer is any semblance of some assumed personage. This is more in league with Buddhaic traditions which never consider that sentitalia concerns some concrete “somebody” but rather some form of process that spontaneously appears on the backdrop of the universe. Hence, as a mere impersonal phenomenon, rather than somehow separately existing. This has everything to do with the process of individuation, which incidentally occurs at the earliest formal manifestation.
It dimly starts in the early stage of semen; it gets a slightly defined form as the foetal experience; it becomes more complex and endowed with more awareness as a baby. As life advances, this experience becomes more complex and more aware, until the old age when it simply starts diminishing, vanishing, until completely fading away at the moment of death. All along this process, we don’t meet with any given substantial individual, which appears at once and dies at once, but only with more or less intense experiences of personal continuity. Human experience doesn’t involve any sudden ‘birth’ of an entity but only the gradual formation of a more and more coarse and defined experience. The human being is not born at once, as a novel entity, and also does not disappear at once, at the moment of death, but gradually appears and fades, like any other phenomenon in the universe.
The individual condition is survived not by an alleged ‘soul’ but only by the impersonal karmic energy. The karmic energy, which engendered and maintained into being the actual personal condition, is enhanced or diminished through the experiences that take place at the individual level. All transmigration is rather a matter of energy taking various personal shapes than of a personal ‘soul’ travelling through various bodies. (Ovidiu Cristian Nedu, Karmic Immortality Versus Personal Immortality in Advaita Vedanta.)
This is akin to what was articulated in the Lankavatarian Book of the Dead wherein it is the awareness principle that experiences the six levels of the Bardos until reaching postmortem and then determines whether or not to recognize and attune (strengthening its Diamond body) to its Primordial Stature, or decides to spin the karmic dice once again. It is in what transpires during the Lankavatarian Book of the Dead when certain liberative techniques are engaged empowering the awareness principle into discerning the Clear Light of Dharmakayic dominance on the terrain of imagelessness, before receding once again into the phantasmagorical maze of Re-becoming.
Within Vedantic eschatology, after the death of one individual, there are two possible courses things can take: devayana, the path of gods and pitriyana, the path of the ancestors. Both are rather ‘karmic’ paths, courses karmic energy can take and not destinies assumed by a personality. (ibid)
Devayana is the course of karmic annihilation, of liberation, of absolute dissolution into Brahman. The person liberated through the knowledge of the true reality, Brahman, ‘burns’ all the karmic energy that propels her or him into being and, at the moment of death, when even the prarabdha karma, karma already ‘solidified’ as the body, vanishes, she or he simply disappears as a ‘person’, being re-absorbed into the ultimate reality. Devayana is not as much a path taken by an individual to any paradise but rather a path of ‘cleansing’ reality, of totally purifying it from a previously assumed personal condition. It is not as much the individual person, which gets purified, but rather reality itself gets rid of one previously existing illusion, of one illusory individual. The limited and egocentric person and all the tarnish it involves simply vanish. This process is rather undergone by reality than by the person; the person is that which is cleansed of, not that which is cleansed.
Pitriyana means the continuation of transmigration. It is the path taken over by the karmic energy accumulated by an individual person which didn’t liberate through the karma-burning knowledge. Hence, within such an individual condition, karmic energy kept on being produced and, at the moment of death, the accumulated karmic energy takes over the path of pitriyana, towards a new incarnation. (ibid)
Similarly, within a Lankavatarian perspective, what matters in this whole cleansing process is “the karmic balance, the karmic economy and not the ‘salvation’ or the ‘immortalization’ of the personal condition.”
The individual condition is nothing but a stage comprised in a cosmic scale process and its role is not to accede to an alleged superior postmortem condition but only to ‘burn’, to exhaust some karmic energies. What survives the death of an individual is the cosmos, the great metempsychotic process, in which all individual lives participate, with a particular and limited karmic impact. There is no postmortem destiny, no postmortem reward or punishment allowed to the individual person; it is all about the karmic impact a human life has upon the deployment of the cosmic process, brahma-chakra. The karmic energy accumulated during a life, impersonal in its own nature, is the one that goes beyond death. Life is rather about karmic energy than about individual salvation. (ibid)
The [real] reward at the end of the samsaric journey is to reap the benefits of proper preparation, i.e., a Cosmic Re-En-Join-Ment (metempsychosis) with the Element of Truth (Dharmadhatu) within that transcendent terrain of imagelessness on the further shore of the Dharmakaya.