Do you view life as circular or linear?

Religions can treat time as linear or non-linear. In some religions, we are born, live, die and go to heaven (or hell). Other religions treat time as cyclical. We are born, live, die and born again. Religions treat their belief systems as somewhat exclusive. You may be a Catholic or a Hindu but few people would profess to be both. The difference between the two orientations towards life, death and the flow of time seems to be profound.

In one belief system, we may never have a chance to redo something that we have done wrong. Of course, Christians (a linear time orientation) hold out the hope of salvation until the very end. However, once it has ended and you go to the great judgment, it is over. You must rise or descend based on what you have done in your life. In the Hindu religion (a circular time orientation), you will have a second chance. It is never too late.

“What happens to a soul after the death of a mortal being on earth depends upon many factors, some of which are listed below: 1. His previous deeds. If a person has committed many bad deeds in his life, he will go to the lower worlds and suffer from the consequences of his evil actions. On the contrary, if he performed good deeds, he will go to the higher sun filled worlds and enjoy the life there.” (Hinduism and Death: The Hindu View on Death by

In the Hindu religion, even if you have seriously failed in your past life, you will be given another chance to succeed. Indeed, even if you fail again, you will come back again and again until you get it right.

How we view the cycle of living, dying and birth may have a direct bearing on how we live our lives. Each day we live, we are impacted by our method of thinking about time. If I believe in a judgment day and the finality of life with death, I may be disposed to think of time as being over when I die. Time is measured from when I am born to when I pass away. If I view life as a cycle of birth-death-rebirth, my portion of time spent living is just one spoke in the great wheel of time that is infinite and that will go on forever. In the Hindu religion, there is no end to time; infinity is part of my daily existence. In the Christian religion, time become infinite only when you are dead since heaven and hell are believed to be infinite.

Many of us who live in the Western world tend to be more linear in our orientation to time versus those in the East. This has many ramifications from how we deal with war to how we deal with our daily economy. How do you view life now? Do you see it as coming and going? Does each day bring you closer to your final day on earth? Or do you see each day as simply another step in a larger cycle of coming around again and again and again? What if your view was changed? What would life be like if you could adopt at least part of the other orientation? What if you saw life as cyclical or linear instead of how you view it now? Would you change anything in your life? Why or why not?

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