The scriptures portray the human soul as going through a cycle of births and deaths. In the conventional meter, we see a cycle completing as the physical birth of a body, and finally the death of that body. However, some persons find it difficult to conceive of an existence before birth and after death, but the scriptures do not frown upon such thoughts.
In the cycle of birth and death, the scriptures are highlighting a concept of a continuum of existence – the present must always have a past, and is headed towards some future.
My teacher would say, “In every split second, your life just died and became a past event, and therefore, in every split second you are born afresh, with a tantalizing possibility of a renewed future direction.” Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures are presenting a dynamic and hopeful scenario – with each split second holding the potential of a blissful future. Thus, an established and infamous cold-blooded robber died one day, and Maharishi Balmiki was born in the next moment. The body did not die, but the change was so great, that it was akin to being “re-born”. Bhagat Trilochan, the Bhakti movement doyen from Maharashtra and a contemporary of Bhagat Namdev, has given enigmatic expression to this thought:
When the last moment was obsessed with greed,
The re-birth will be like a serpent.
When the last moment is spent in desire of property
The re-birth is in the form of an evil spirit.
Guru Granth Sahib thus points out that even a single life has huge potential for going through many reincarnations. We do not need to physically die to start a new life, it can begin right now! Bhagat Trilochan guides us:
When the last moment is laid to rest by remembering Him,
You are free in the future, for He shall dwell in your heart.