Killed by God: A Comparison of the Jaya-Vijaya Story with the Kabbalistic Concept of Gilgul

The soul’s journey after death is a fascinating and mysterious topic. Even if one takes the leap of faith of believing in the immortality of the soul, and the further leap of believing in reincarnation, many questions about the particulars of this process remain. In the traditional literature of Bhakti yoga, the journey of a soul through different incarnations has far more subtleties than the pedestrian understanding of working out “bad karma” that has made its way into popular yoga-speak. The story of Jaya and Vijaya, two heavenly gatekeepers afflicted with a curse, is illustrative of Bhakti yoga’s philosophical conception of the soul’s relationship with God, the process of reincarnation, and the nature of God’s involvement in the world. Many unexpected parallels to this story can be found in the literature of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, even though that tradition evolved in an entirely different part of the world. The teachings of both these traditions on death and reincarnation also reveal their nuanced views on good and evil, which are designed to inspire us towards a more sympathetic understanding of those whom we normally consider “enemies.” 

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