Putting these extracts in here as Coomaraswamy spent most of his life in the West and was a scholar of comparative religion. These are just some lines from a longer piece which, if interested, one can read in full HERE
Shankaracharya's dictum ''Verily, there is no other transmigrant but the Lord'', startling as it may appear to be at first sight, for it seems to deny the reincarnation of individual essences, is amply supported by the older, and even the oldest texts, and it is by no means an exclusively Indian doctrine.
For it is not an individual soul that Plato means when he says ''The soul of man is immortal and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying away, and at another time is born again, but never perishes...and having been born many times acquires the knowledge of all and everything''; or that Plotinus means when he says 'There is really nothing strange in that reduction (of all souls to One); though it may be asked How can there only be One, the same in many, entering into all, but never itself divided up?''; or by Hermes who says that ''He who does all these things is One''.
This higher Brahma (Solar Self) is ''that One, the Great Self, who takes up his stand in womb after womb, as the omniform Lord of Breaths He wanders about by his own actions, the fruition of which he enjoys, and being associated with conceptuality and the notion of ''I Am'', is known as the lower. Neither male nor female nor neuter, whatever body he assumes, therewith he is connected; through the delusions of concept, touch and sight, there is birth and growth of the Self by the rain of food and drink, ...and because of conjunction with the qualities both his own and of action, he seems to be ''another''.''
This One, spoken of by many names, is everywhere born and reborn. ''One as he is in Himself, and many as he is in his children, who are not beings independently, but Beings by participation.''
(Note - in the oldest scriptures, the Rig Veda, this Being is the Sun or Fire, who transmigrates, enters into many wombs and is born and reborn. This is not envisioned as rebirth of an individual on earth.)
In the majority of cases (in the oldest scriptures) the references of ''repeated birth'' and ''repeated death'' are to this present life or ''becoming''...In ''becoming'' we die and are reborn every day and night and in this sense day and night are recurrent deaths,
''When this immanent unstrung body dweller is released from the body, what survives? The answer is ''That'', viz Brahma, Atman, the predicate of the dictum ''That Thou Art''. Thus Atman means that which remains if we take away from our person all that is Not-Self; our end (goal) is to exchange our own limited manner of being ''So-and-so'', for God's unlimited manner of being simply.
''Pilgrim, Pilgrimage and Road
Was but Myself toward Myself, and Your arrival,
But Myself at my own door.'' ~ Faridu'd Din Attar
In the Old Testament we find that when we die and give up the ghost ''Then shall the dust return to the dust as it was, and the Spirit (ruah) return to God who gave it.''...To be glad of this can be thought of only for one who has known who he is, and in which self he hopes to go hence.
''I live, yet not I, but the Christ within me.'' ~ St Paul
Meister Eckhart speaks of the man who knows himself as ''seeing thy Self in everyone and everyone in thee.''
''Inasmuch as ye have done it onto the least of these my Brethren, ye have done it unto Me.'' ~ Matthew 26
Of all the conclusions to be drawn from the doctrine of the One and Only Transmigrant, the most poignant is this, that whereas he is the bird caught in the net, the Ram caught in the thicket, the sacrificial victim and our Saviour, he cannot save us except and unless we, by the sacrifice and denial of ourself, also save Him.
Image by Android Jones