I’ve mentioned this earlier, but I always seem fascinated by how we read so many things but understand so few of them; and later when it finally dawns upon us, its such a good feeling of revelation and exhiliration. As I was reading through [[http://floatingsun.net/blog/2005/12/26/442/|A short history of nearly everything]] and Discovery of India, I just suddenly realized (and both books point this out) how some very metaphysical concepts such as re-incarnation and //aatma// might have a grounding in science.
Consider re-incarnation: I’m not very knowledgeable on the subject (see [[wp>reincarnation|entry at Wikipedia]]) but the basic idea that everyone understands is that we are //re-born// after death. In particular, the Hindu philosophy holds that depending on your [[wp>karma|karma]] in this life, your fate in the next life would be decided.
Now philosophy apart, at the atomic level, this actually does happen to some extent. I mean, eventually we are all but organized congolomerates of billions and billions of atoms held together by some cooperative forces. And once we die, our bodies will disintegrate (whether its buried or cremated) into its constituent atoms. Also, since an atom is an amazingly **almost indestructible** entity, its bound to combine, cohort and re-appear in some shape or form. Some of your atoms may become plants, others may become earth, still others may become water or air. Just as likely, some of your atoms might re-appear in other organisms. And taking this to the extreme, there is a non-zero, even though infinitesimally small probability, that a human being is born who is constituted entirely of atoms that were once //you//.
I had never looked at re-incarnation in this light, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether the ancients already had an inkling of the atomic world, and the re-incarnation as we know today might just be the polluted and corrupt version of a pure idea dating back thousands of years. In any case, it made me smile :-)