Por: Elizabeth and Neil Carman
When is the fetal home ready for the soul? At what point in the ovum's development into an adult does an individual become a member of the society and thus become covered by the taboo against injuring a member of the in-group (contraception, abortion, murder?) The growth of the fertilized ovum into an adult human is a continuous process of the development of a single entity. However, when this entity is "human," and precisely what its legal and moral rights are at each stage of development, depend on the culture involved.
Cultures offer a range of time frames -- from conception to the time of birth -- as to when a child's soul first visits the fetus and sets up house in the mother's womb. A soul may have dibs on a mother and hover around her during the first four months, but it may be indecisive about locking into the womb until the last trimester. After the initial visit, the soul's presence may be continuous or the soul may come and go until birth.
Certain women notice a unique event happening as early as sexual intercourse.
I was born into a Tibetan family of moderate wealth. I was intelligent and skilled at overseeing the household and caring for the family and servants. For that reason, my parents gave my sisters away in marriage, but kept me at home to supervise my youngest brother.
Lamas and spiritual masters taught me the karmic law of cause and effect and other spiritual subjects. I became eager to practice virtue. On every full Moon, new Moon, and on the eighth day of each month, I observed eight special vows for twenty-four hours, from dawn to dawn:
I took delight in the Dharma and eventually completed 100,000 praises to the Goddess Tara and 1,000,000,000 prostrations.
I became pregnant following a series of wondrous dreams. The village chief presented me with a holy statue in one dream. He advised, "Keep this image in your home for a while. But you won't keep it forever, for someday it is destined to be placed upon everyone's head." In another dream, I found a white lotus flower with which I adorned my hair, and a white conch shell that I blew.
I encountered the most powerful dream once I became pregnant, A resplendent image of Avalokiteshvara, the Deity of Compassion, about an inch in size, entered the crown of my head and dissolved into me. At that moment, my son entered my womb, filling my mind and body with boundless bliss.
I gave birth to a special son, Shabkar. From early childhood, he preferred to recite prayers, sing the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, and beat a drum or play other temple instruments.
At night, my son lay on my lap and looked into darkness. He told me, "Mother, when I look into the air, I see different colored things, rainbow lights, circles, and images of deities like the paintings in temples. I answered, "Don't tell fibs -- how can anyone see such things in complete darkness? Just quiet down."
A few days later, he told me he saw the same things again. I asked, "You are not making it up, are you?" He replied, "Really, I'm not lying." I told Ngaktruk, the village chief. "It could be true," he said. "You must keep this child clean and guard him from defilements. If he is an incarnation of a good practitioner and practices the Dharma, he will benefit himself and others."
My son grew up to become a great yogi, Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol (1781-1851). He gained enlightenment in one lifetime. As a wandering mendicant, he taught via spiritual songs revealing his world of intense self-discipline, humor, vision and joy.
Conception takes place in the mother's womb when the egg and sperm unite with the consciousness of the being in the after-death state.
Conception represents the final outcome of the urge possessing the disembodied consciousness of the being in the si pa bardo to inhabit the human realm.
Robert A. F. Thurman
Now Buddhists stupidly run around saying there is no soul and there is no self. The Buddha's famous doctrine of selflessness had to do with the metaphysical status of the essence of the person. His whole point was that there is no fixed, rigid self -- no absolutely unchanging, independent, sovereign self with your name and serial number engraved on it, which never changes and which is plopped from one existence to another. What the Buddha constantly maintained, however, was that there is a relative, constantly living, constantly changing self. So for the Buddhist the soul is the most subtle level of that self. It is the extremely subtle body and mind that exists in the centre of the heart chakra, like a tiny little drop. At conception the heart chakra (situated at a mid point between the breasts) forms around it.
They say that when you're in the extremely subtle body/mind state of the between it's like being in a dream where your embodiment, because it is only created by imagery, is very unstable. So if you have these unconscious images that helplessly emerge where you might suddenly like the idea of being, say, a tarantuala, you're in danger.
During the between-state, the consciousness is embodied in a ghostlike between-body, made of subtle energies structured by the imagery in the mind, similar to the subtle embodiment we experience in dreams.
The soul (the very subtle mind-body) in the between state has temporarily an immensely heightened intelligence, extraordinary powers of concentration, special abilities of clairvoyance and teleportation, flexibility to become whatever can be imagined, and the openness to be radically transformed by a thought or a vision or an instruction.
If a clairvoyant were forced to perceive all between-beings around, she would have no time to see anything else. Infinite numbers of being of all species are dying and traversing the between all the time, and their subtle embodiments penetrate solid objects, or coexist in the same coarse space with other things.
. . . . when the individual leaves it [the ghostlike between-body] to enter a gross body at conception in a womb, she dissolves out of it in a kind of minideath process.
When it is time to assume a physical body, a vision appears signalling the continent the soul is destined to be reborn in.
Now signs and marks will arise about which continent you will be reborn in -- recognize them! Now you should explore where to be reborn, you should choose a continent. If you are reborn in eastern Videha [Oceania, including Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia], you will see lakes and waters adorned with male and female geese. think of renunciation and do not go there. If you are born there, your situation will be comfortable; but you should not go there as the Dharma is not available three.
If you are going to be reborn in southern Jambudvipa [Asia], you will see beautiful and comfortable houses. If you can go there, do so. If you are to be reborn in western Godaniya [Middle East, Europe, and Africa], you will see lakes adorned with male and female horses. Turn back and do not go there. Although it is very enjoyable the Dharma has not spread three, so do not go there. If you are going to be reborn in northern Kuru [the ancient Americas], you see lakes adorned with cattle or with evergreen trees. Recognize these as signs of being reborn there. do not go there! though you will have long life and much fortune there, the Dharma is not available there. Do no go there!
Tibetan Buddhism encourages the soul to choose Asia, the best place for spiritual progress: "If you can go there do so." The Dharma has not spread to the other three continents. They only offer material comforts and enjoyments.
The soul feels an attraction to a couple whose union can produce an embryo capable of providing the sought-for-karmic continuity. Fertilization thus occurs only when certain conditions are met: the woman is fertile and a soul is seeking the karmic situation that will be provided by her pregnancy.
Tibetan Buddhism advises the seeking consciousness:
Using your clairvoyance, enter a womb in a place where the Dharma has spread. Caution is required, for even if you were to be reborn magically in a heap of dung, you would get the notion that the impure mass smelled delicious and you would be reborn in it by the force of your attraction. Therefore you should not adhere to whatever appearance occurs, and you must discount any signs that trigger attachment or aversion. Then choose a good womb. And here the willed intention is important; so you must create it as follows: "Hey! for the sake of all beings, I will be reborn as a world-ruling emperor, or of the priestly class, sheltering all beings like a great shade tree, or as the child of a holy man, an adept, or of a clan with an impeccable Dharma lineage, or in a family where the parents have great faith. I must succeed in this coming life, by adopting a body that has great merit, to enable me to accomplish the aims of all beings! Aiming your will in this way you should enter the womb. At that time, the womb you have entered should appear to you as if magically transformed into a divine palace. You should pray to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas of the ten directions, the Archetype Deities, and especially to the Lord of Great Compassion. And you should visualize that they are all anointing you in consecration as you enter the womb.
Buddha always taught a soul is what reincarnates, as a selfless continuum of relative, changing, causally engaged awareness.
Every living being is this indestructible drop at the extremely subtle level. This is the living soul of every being. This indestructible drop is the energy-mind indivisible of clear light transparency. This subtlest, most essential state of an individual being is beyond body-mind duality; it consists of the finest, most sensitive, alive, and intelligent energy in the universe. It is a being's deepest state of pure soul, where the being is intelligent light, alive and singular, continuous yet changing, aware of its infinite interconnection with everything. It is what is referred to by Buddha nature.
Other traditions and cultures are less specific about when the soul joins its earthly body.
Another set of traditions believe the soul locks in only when the child draws its first breath after birth. The soul waits until the house is built.
The soul's status develops in stages according to Anthroposophy.
The pregnant woman's connection with a higher world develops gradually. She is not so open to the spiritual shift during the first trimester when she first begins to strongly feel changes in her body. The expectant mother has grown accustomed to living as an individual and feels forced to provide a living space within her body for a child for nine months. The child to some degree dislodges the soul and spirit of the woman from her physical body. She feels a physical conflict with the developing embryo and suffers from it. This is why up to the end of first trimester, the embryo is exposed to the risk of miscarriage.
As the child descends from the spiritual world and gradually shapes an earthly body, the pregnant mother's body and soul must come to the right degree of selflessness in order to make way for the child. Typically this happens after the first trimester. Once the transition occurs, a woman has much to gain spiritually during pregnancy. She enters the most blessed stage of pregnancy. She becomes transparent to the light the child brings down from the higher realm.
"She has more connection now with the heavenly forces than before pregnancy because her mind has become slightly detached from her body. So she has the possibility of soul-experiences of a higher order than in her life apart from pregnancy. She should try to listen more and more to what speaks to her inwardly. In this way she comes to a closer connection with the child, and realizes how far away it still is in the supersensible world. "The mother thus gains a growing relationship to, and a closer understanding of the realms from which her child is coming down. This is the reason for the great change that can be observed in the pregnant woman: she can become wiser and gain in knowledge. She should recognize how she is lifted up from the ordinary course of life, and is thereby given the possibility of devoting herself to the new task." (Norbert Glas)
The pregnant woman enters the last and most difficult stage towards the seventh month. Her child is becoming more earthly and reaching the final stage of physical development. Consequently, the mother feels her own heaviness. She tires easily and her legs become unsteady. It requires effort to walk and carry her body upright. The baby runs the risk of a premature birth during this delicate time. For that reason, the mother must hold to all that she gained from the middle period.
The soul appears to be composed of different layers like an onion. So the soul's entry into the womb is a step-by-step process.
The fetus becomes mature enough to house one or more dimensions of the soul before others. The incarnating soul who is coming from a spiritual realm where it lived free of time and space apparently requires time to adapt to the physical world. The soul therefore gradually enters into physical form. Early in pregnancy the soul may be 30% in the fetal body. When the fetus is mature enough to survive on its own and takes its first breath, the fetus houses all the soul's dimensions and the soul is 100% in the body.
A variety of sources support this theoretical model of the soul.