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Buddhism in the News


Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Reincarnationist

I was recently contacted by critically acclaimed author M. J. Rose regarding her newest novel, The Reincarnationist. Rose has been interested in Eastern philosophy and especially reincarnation since her early years and has now written a book of fiction surrounding many of those ideas.

The Reincarnationist has received star reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, was chosen as a Booksense pick and has received rave reviews from People Magazine, The Chicago Sun Times and more. And so, without further ado, M. J. Rose introduces us to the back story of her latest book in a Saturday guest post:

The Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang said: “To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma (cause and effect) is a result of ones past actions.”

When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known.

He was not a Buddhist but a Kabbalist – and reincarnation is as much a part of mystic Judaism tradition as it part of Buddhism. As he continued to talk to me about these memories, my great grandfather became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone from his past.

My mother – a logical and skeptical woman – argued with him about what she called his “old fashioned” ideas but over time and more incidents, she became curious enough to start reading up on the subject.

And so reincarnation was an idea I grew up with. A concept that my mom and I talked about and researched together. We studied what Buddhists and Kabbalists and Hindus wrote. We read scientific articles and skeptical arguments. We debated and postulated.

If you had asked me at twenty if I believed, I would have said “I don’t not believe.” But I was fascinated. And remained fascinated.

In my early thirties I studied Zen Buddhism and learned to mediate. It was about the same time I started writing fiction and found myself very much wanting to write a novel about reincarnation.

But it wasn’t until my mother died ten years ago that I finally began to make notes for that novel… a story about someone like her who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. At the time I was too close to the subject and missed her too much to work on the project. The grief was too close and too raw.

Then four years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece, who was almost three years old told me about experiences I’d had with my mother… experiences my niece couldn’t have known – moments I had never shared with anyone.

There was no turning away anymore. That experience convinced me it was time for me to finally explore my ideas and questions about reincarnation through my novel.

Josh Ryder, the main character in The Reincarnationist has my mom’s initials, her spirit and her curiosity and like her, he’s a photographer. But there the similarities end.

When Josh starts having flashbacks that simply can’t be explained any other way except as possible reincarnation memories he goes to New York to study with Dr. Malachai Samuels -- a scientist and Reincarnationist who works with children helping them deal with past life memories.

In the process Josh gets caught up in the search for ancient memory tools that may or may not physically enable people to reach back and discover who they were and who they are.

Thich Nguyen Tang said: “So we can say that in Buddhism, life does not end, merely goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. Buddhism is a belief that emphasizes the impermanence of lives, including all those beyond the present life. With this in mind we should not fear death as it will lead to rebirth.”

I think writing is a rebirth like that. Thoughts reborn as words that in a way die for the author once they are put to paper but are then reborn again for the reader who picks up the book and experiences the ideas and thoughts of the writer in his or her own personal way.

M.J. Rose is the author of nine novels. Read an excerpt of The Reincarnationist, watch an interview with the author and read the reviews at Also please visit Rose’s blog devoted to the subject of reincarnation at

~Peace to all beings~

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the psycho therapist said...

Interesting post. I share similar experiences with the author. Thank you for sharing her wisdom.

/looking around the room
Saaaay, nice sangha you've got going here. I'm glad I found it.

bell ringing in the empty sky

As always.


Gary said...

Interesting post, James.

Whilst Tibetan Buddhism, probably under Hindu/Tantric influence, has strong tendencies to use ideas of reincarnation, Buddhism as a whole doesn't, of course. The Lord Buddha taught rebirth, not reincarnation; the latter involves some kind of permanent separate soul, whilst the former most certainly does not.

Whilst reading M.J. Rose's words on the subject, I wasn't too sure whether she was referring to reincarnation or rebirth, but she seemed to veer towards the former. This is fine, of course, as it's up to her what she writes, but as a Buddhist I would make the distinction clear, otherwise it can lead to confusion as to the central Buddhist teaching of anatta (not-self).

In the Buddhist understanding of rebirth, there's no individual that's reincarnated as such, but some underlying mental tendencies or habits that are reborn. It's a process that's repeated across lives rather than a soul 'jumping' from body to body.

Your use of the process of writing as an analogy for the process of rebirth was refreshing, James, and was the most stimulating part of the whole post for me. Thanks for that one!

Be well,
Gary at Forest Wisdom

They call him James Ure said...

Psycho Therapist:


You're quite welcome. She sounds like a very interesting person as does the book.

I'm happy that you are enjoying the blog. We do have a bit of an online sangha going here and all are welcome.


Very true and thank-you for making that distinction and reminding us of the difference. It slipped my mind to do so. My readers are the best around. :)

Marianne's Keyboard said...

Yes, all very interesting. I'll speak to Marianne about you

Cardozo said...


Thanks for the clarification. I have been tempted at times to really dive headlong into Buddhism, but confusion about exactly how much disbelief I will need to suspend (in areas such as reincarnation, for example) has prevented me.

If you have any good resources on "rebirth vs. reincarnation," I'd love an email.

MJRose said...

I too would love to learn more about rebirth vs reincarnation. If anyone can point me to any info it would be most edifying.

Gary said...

Hello, Cardozo & MJ Rose.

Regarding the Buddhist teaching of rebirth, you could try reading the following pdf books freely downloadable from in the General Buddhism ebook section:

"Good Question, Good Answer" by Venerable S.Dhammika
"From Womb to Womb" by Francis Story

Rebirth, because it doesn't contain the idea of a permanent individual soul, can be explored in this life by examining our own experiences. Watching the mind, we can see the rebirth of one thought into another; it comes from the previous thought but is not identical with it. Emotions, too, can be observed in this way; a bad mood can be reborn into a new form or context, but continues the same negative thread.

Ajahn Sumedho of the Western Forest Sangha has often presented rebirth in this way, for as he admits himself, he cannot remember previous births (whether of himself or others), but by watching his own body and mind, he can see the process of rebirth in this very life, moment to moment. And so can we, if we use reflection to understand the workings of our own bodies and minds.

Hope this is helpful,
Gary at Forest Wisdom:
(Visit Forest Wisdom and you'll find similar reflections on understanding Buddhism in a modern context.)

Cardozo said...


This is indeed helpful. Thank you.

DANIE said...

There is no need to talk about GOD for Buddhism. But at present in Asia Africa and other non-catholic contries, Catholic and Cristian NGO foundations have began to grab poor Buddhists for their religion and they do not fear to kill their aginsters of those countries. Therefore we have to save those innocent Buddhists from that NGO catholic missions. I visited that site and it is the newest effort for spread the no GOD truth.

I suggest that non can grab someone for their religion but everybody can say their vision and say it independently. But there is a truth in the world. I have seen that Buddhism is a great religion. None can prove it as a wrong vision. Therefore most of Cristian Catholic and Islamic NGOs and Terrorists try to grab them donating foods, medicines, houses, and jobs too. If Buddhists don't want to know about the question GOD or JEHOVAH or son JESUS they must have a right to live independently. But unfortunately they don't leave them alone. I think in my country USA, I have seen large Buddhist community. They were Catholics and Christians before. Big number of Churches are closing at present. Because they have to known the truths of the worlds from the Science and the only one religion can be compared successfully, is BUDDHISM. Although we can realize it, at present Asians are giving up their Blessed religion very unfortunately. I think, most of them haven't any educational background and feeling from poverty. Therefore, it caused them to sell their religion for donations of NGOs. What a unlucky.

I have researched about the blowing of Buddhism for 2550 years then I have to known about the current situation in Asia. Where are human rights? Why do Biddhist organizations are sleeping? You must keep your native Buddhists from those dangerous NGOs.

At last my comment, I wish that no GOD organizations, their effort can be prove not only Buddhists but also entire world to realize that "There is not Creator like JEHOVAH or ALLAH" and " No one(JESUS) can save our life from suffering, only from attaining inner peace following Buddhism. This BUDDHISTS BLOGS is very nice. And I think have a click to and see their efforts too. Though, It is newer site, Its proofs are great. I could change my Chap Jimmy from his Christian Visions using this newest site. Therefore I take this opportunity to respect their great effort again and again.

Thank you for read me.
in Peace,
Daniel Brownridge

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