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The logic of reincarnation

By Jim Holt   July 2000

The late Carl Sagan once asked the Dalai Lama what he would do if science were to cast doubt on a central tenet of Tibetan Buddhism-reincarnation. The Dalai Lama replied with a grin: “It’s going to be hard to disprove reincarnation.”

The doctrine of reincarnation is not peculiar to Buddhism. It is prominent in other eastern religions as well as in some tropical African cultures. The Pythagoreans made reincarnation a part of their metaphysics; so did Plato (who argued that it accounted for our knowledge of the Forms) and, later, Schopenhauer. It has cropped up in certain Christian heresies and…

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