Only once some would say: we are born, we die – that’s it.
Others suggest that we experience past lives and so we have been reincarnated a number of times.
Still others propose that we live in a never-ending cycle of birth-rebirth-birth-rebirth…
All these answers have one thing in common. They assume a life that can be thought of, and conceived as – me, I, myself. A single human being; entire, complete, and - apart from the aging process - unchanging.
Yet, when we consider the make-up of our body, we are not unchanging, nor are we complete.
Our body is comprised of somewhere between 50 – 75 trillion cells.
These cells do not have a lifetime consistent with the lifetime of the being we think of as me. Skin cells, for example, are replaced every two to three weeks. Red blood cells last about four months. The cells lining our stomach are lucky to reach two days. They all get replaced however.
Not so brain cells. They do last our lifetime. At least those that last that long do so. Brain cells do die, but are not replaced.
All these cells are made of proteins, and those proteins in turn are the product of atoms.
We all know, roughly, what atoms are. The building blocks of everything is one way to conceive of them. The Periodic Table lists 118 elements, of which atoms are the basic ingredient.
Back to the Question
Back to our question: how many times have you been reincarnated?
If we consider all the elements and atoms that make up our body, then we could easily claim to have been reincarnated many many times over.
Just four elements - Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen – constitute around 96% of our body weight. The atoms of these elements have been around for billions of years.
The atoms of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen that make up our present-day body have been part of the Earth’s ecosystem for millennia. Perhaps millions of years ago, the atoms on the tip of your tongue may have been in a plant that was then eaten by a passing Stegosaurus. Maybe millions of years before that, the atoms lining your stomach lined the bottom of an ancient seabed.
Consider your breath. Perhaps some of the nitrogen or oxygen that you breath in right now once passed through the nostrils of Cleopatra or Genghis Khan.
We are being recycled, rejuvenated, revivified, and reincarnated continuously. We are part of an eternal cycle that includes animal, vegetable, and mineral.
We are part of everything. Everything is part of us. I am one with all. All is one with me.
It is a humbling thought, isn’t it?