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I have two questions about reincarnation which I've been wondering a lot.

When people are born, they start up a whole new life and have to learn everything (again). Language, social skills, how to walk and eat etc. It is proved that a great part of the person one will become, is influenced by genes and environment. Then I would like to know, what part of us comes from our earlier lives? Everything from earlier lives can't just be forgotten can it?

Today we are more than 7 billion people on earth. In the year 1800 it was about 1 billion. This must mean that there's more new children getting born than there are souls to live in them. How is this problem solved?
I know it sounds like a silly question. I couldn't explain it better, sorry.

Good evening Kim,

There is actually a subtle difference between rebirth and reincarnation.  Reincarnation implies a continuity of an unchanging personality or "soul", which born again and again.  Rebirth takes the concept of a continuity of a life-stream with no unchanging personality or "soul".  For example, reincarnation means "X" will always be reincarnated as "X".  While in rebirth when "X" dies, its life-stream continues to take another life but not exactly "X".  Theravada Buddhist concept of "reincarnation" is this "rebirth".    

1. When a life expires, the life-stream or storehouse of consciousness takes another life.  It contains all the "ingredients" of its past lives, but not exactly those of its last life. The new being has to learn all the physical activities of the new life.  This is so because the new life is a completely new physical existence; while the consciousness within is a storehouse of all his past actions. The greater part of our inborn characteristics are the manifestations of our past experiences.  The more apparent of these characteristics for examples, are being artistic, beautiful, intelligent, likeable and charismatic.  On the other spectrum are the negative attributes like being evil, ugly and dull.  

2. In the Buddhist context, life is not just human life.  Life embraces all existing beings which we can see plus other beings which we cannot see, not necessarily in this world alone. Any living being can be reborn as human.  Even considering the beings that we can see in this world, the number is countless.  Look at the number of ants, bees, and insects, just to name three species.   

Hope this helps.

Justin Choo


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Justin Choo


All your questions will be answered, and you may not have to agree with the answers. Such is the beauty of Buddhism. I follow the Theravada tradition, and have been studying Buddhism for more than 50 years. As I am not a Buddhist scholar, I answer in simple language, and I prefer answering general questions rather than textual.


I was brought up in the 50's as a Buddhist. For the past 50 years I have read numerous books on Buddhism and listened to numerous talks on Buddhism by well-respected and learned monks and lay teachers. I have conducted Buddhist classes for parents of Sunday School children in a Theravada Buddhist Temple. My teacher was the late Chief Reverend, The Ven. K Sri Dhammananda of The Brickfields Buddhist Mahavihara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can view the relevant website in memory of my revered late teacher @ and my blog posting at

I am a life member of the Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia.

YOU ARE INVITED TO VISIT MY BLOG @ Published a book called "The Rainbow And The Treasure". It is a compilation of extracts from various sources to introduce Buddhism to beginners. (Currently out of print)

Bachelor of Commerce And Administration, Victoria University Of Wellington, NZ.(1974)

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