Ramana Maharshi on Reincarnation, Birth and Rebirth
Question : Is reincarnation true?
Ramana Maharshi : Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.
Question : Can a yogi know his past lives?
Ramana Maharshi : Do you know the present life that you wish to know the past? Find the present, then the rest will follow. Even with our present limited knowledge, you suffer so much. Why should you burden yourself with more knowledge? Is it to suffer more?
When seen through the sight of the supreme space of Self, the illusion of taking birth in this mirage-like false world is found to be nothing but the egotistical ignorance of identifying a body as`I'. Among those whose minds are possessed with forgetfulness of Self, those who are born will die and those who die will be born again.
But know that those whose minds are dead, having known the glorious supreme reality, will remain only there in that elevated state of reality, devoid of both birth and death. Forgetting Self, mistaking the body for Self, taking innumerable births, and at last knowing Self and being Self is just like waking from a dream of wandering all over the world.
Question : How long does it take a man to be reborn after death? Is it immediately after death or some time after?
Ramana Maharshi : You do not know what you were before birth, yet you want to know what you will be after death. Do you know what you are now?
Birth and rebirth pertain to the body. You are identifying the Self with the body. It is a wrong identification. You believe that the body has been born and will die, and confound the phenomena relating to the body with the Self. Know your real being and these questions will not arise.
Birth and rebirth are mentioned only to make you investigate the question and find out that there are neither births nor rebirths. They relate to the body and not to the Self. Know the Self and don't be perturbed by doubts.
Question : Do not one's actions affect the person in later births?
Ramana Maharshi : Are you born now ? Why do you think of other births? The fact is that there is neither birth nor death. Let him who is born think of death and palliatives for it.