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I know that reincarnation is an important part of Hinduism, but I always thought that a person could only be reincarnated as a plant or an animal (a living thing). However, this passage from Manikkavasagar's ca. 9th century Tiruvasagam, suggests otherwise:

புல்லாகிப் பூடாய்ப் புழுவாய் மரமாகிப், பல் விருகமாகிப் பறவையாய்ப் பாம்பாகிக்

கல்லாய் மனிதராய்ப் பேயாய்க் கணங்களாய், வல் அசுரர் ஆகி முனிவராய்த் தேவராய்ச்

செல்லாஅ நின்ற இத் தாவர சங்கமத்துள்...

Pullākip pūṭāyp puḻuvāy maramākip pal virukamākip paṟavaiyāyp pāmpākik

kallāy maṉitarāyp pēyāyk kaṇaṅkaḷāy val asurar āki muṉivarāyt tēvarāyc

cellā'a niṉṟa it tāvara caṅkamattuḷ...

I have been grass, I have been a shrub, a worm, a tree. I have lived as countless creatures;

I have been a rock, a ghost, a spirit, a demon, a sage, a deva;

Some day, I will have been every being that has ever been known to be...

So, is that true? Could a person be reborn as a rock, as this line seems to imply? And if so, does that mean that rocks, too, have life? I thought that life was limited to plants, animals, and spirits.

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    the atma can be STUCK in a rock. Being born as a rock implies rocks take birth, which is silly. there are trillion atmas just floating around in water, until they take birth in a particular species.
    – ram
    Feb 20, 2023 at 22:35
  • @mar Can you elaborate on this in the form of an answer, if possible with references? Feb 21, 2023 at 13:07
  • According to me, you are taking the quote literally. Ātman-Brahman is all pervading and is not restricted to just life forms, the speaker of the quote perhaps is implying that. The cetana svabhāva of Brahman is everywhere, perception of acetana is only due to avidyā. The moment he realizes the cetanatva in everything, would be the moment he has attained mokṣā. That is my interpretation.
    – Bingming
    Mar 11, 2023 at 10:32
  • The author is of the Śaiva-Siddhānta school, he is perhaps experiencing the eternal consciousness of Śiva-Śakti that is all pervading. Another interpretation would be him as Śakti and Śiva which is eternal and all-pervading cetana, and the moment he is able to see himself everywhere is the moment he is enlightened. I have been doesn't need to be taken necessarily as I was so-and-so in past life.
    – Bingming
    Mar 11, 2023 at 10:37

6 Answers 6

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According to Hinduism if sins are committed but Prayaschittas (penances) are not performed then the Jiva goes to hells and gets appropriate punishment there. After that the Jiva gets born again among lower Yonis depending on the magnitude of sins it has committed.

In this process, the highest degree sinners get born as different types of plants.

1. Now after having suffered the torments inflicted in the hells, the evil-doers pass into animal bodies. 2. Criminals in the highest degree enter the bodies of all plants successively. 3. Mortal sinners enter the bodies of worms or insects. 4. Minor offenders enter the bodies of birds. 5. Criminals in the fourth degree enter the bodies of aquatic animals. 6. Those who have committed a crime effecting loss of caste, enter the bodies of amphibious animals. 7. Those who have committed a crime degrading to a mixed caste, enter the bodies of deer.

Vishnu Smriti; Chapter XLIV

Since the highest degree sinners get born as plants this shows the lowest birth possible for any Jiva is that of a plant. "To be born as a rock" is thus not possible.

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There is a verse in Katha Upanishad that talks of being born as a stationary object.

yonim anye prapadyante sariratvaya dehinah, sthanum anye'nusamyanti, yatha karma, yatha srutam.

Some souls enter into a womb for embodiment; others enter stationary objects according to their deeds and according to their thoughts.

Katha Upanishad II.2.7

Stationary objects could mean trees or plants. Could it mean rocks? It might mean that. If tamas is so strong that it covers the Atman completely then stationary object could mean a rock.

There is support for this in Garuda Purana.

Evolution of the creatures

They are controlled by virtues and vices in the form of bliss and sorrow. Their bodies have different castes, age and enjoyment born of their different karmas.

Then again in every birth, o bird, they obtain subtle bodies and after attaining moksha they acquire indestructible fame.

The departed souls enter into insentient objects, worms, birds, animals, men, deities, but after release do not enter into any object or anybody at all.

Passing through four types of bodies in order of their karmas and leaving one body after the other a thousand times, taking birth in human form, and acquiring knowledge due to good acts one obtains release.

[Garuda Purana, Dharma Khanda, Chapter XLIX]

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  • Any idea what word the original Sanskrit line uses? It may hold some sort of clue.
    – CDR
    Jul 22, 2023 at 16:03
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    Stationary objects means trees not rocks .. checking the original Sanskrit always helps.
    – Rickross
    Jul 22, 2023 at 16:44
  • Śāṅkarabhāṣya on Kaṭhopaniṣat (2.2.7) also says - "sthāṇu vr̥kṣādisthāvarabhāvam". So, there shouldn't be any doubt that trees, plants, etc. are being referred to as sthāṇu, not inanimate stationary objects such as rocks, etc.. Rocks are r̥tuja not karmaja, they aren't in the domain of karma anyway. Nor do they have any faculties. So, I agree with @Rickross
    – Bingming
    Dec 17, 2023 at 3:49
  • Thx ... @Bingming
    – Rickross
    Dec 17, 2023 at 9:56
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The Srivaishnavite sect believes that their teacher - Vedanta Desikan was an incarnation of the bell of the Tirupati Venkatesvara temple:

https://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vdesikan/esd/42.html

"Utpreksyate budha-janaih upapatti - bhuma ghanto hareh samajanista yadat maneti"

-- Sankalpa Sooryodayam (Act 1. 14)

"It is considered by wise men that the bell of Hari was born as Vedanta Desika. This is done on the strength of abundant and appropriate reasons."

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This is a knotty question. We know that a rock is non living and hence has no soul. However, when I think of the story of Aahalya who was brought to life from a rock state by Rama, the question begs some validity.

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  • even some ppl have no soul
    – blue_ego
    Jul 22, 2023 at 15:00
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In the context of Advaita Vedanta, the subject is called the Atman or soul (often called Purusha in Samkhya philosophy), and the object, the rest of the things, separate from the soul (also called Prakriti in Samkhya philosophy) are one, not different.

A person who is in avidya or ignorance sees everything as different, like a person in a dream who sees different people, nature, clouds, and plants, all different from himself, where everything is in him [Mandukya Upanishad], in him, exists the whole reality of the universe.

The soul is itself never born, never it dies [Bhagavad Gita, Mandukya Upanishad]. So, it never dies, never it was born, the witness remains indefinitely in himself.

Can one be reborn as a rock?

Since a rock is never born, it is not possible for a person to be incarnated as a rock. But, rock is also the part of consciousness that exists in the whole universe including self, so the rock can have temporary consciousness for a while.

This is evident from Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, where Parkaya Pravesh can be performed through samyama to enter the bodies of others and into their minds, in the same way to rocks, where the Yogi becomes unconscious of the body of the self (including breath), but at the same time remains conscious of the rock and gets all the knowledge of the rock, as rock, as a part of percieved reality is not different from self.

The Advaitic argument is also very simple - the soul (or Atman) remains as a witness, through whatever the sense organs or beyond the sense organs it remains, and never dies, this stands true for the rock.

Being incarnated as a rock counts as a bone or bane?

I see multiple answers counting it as a bane through different scriptual references, but from my point of view, it is not possible to re-incarnate as something that neither was never birthed, nor died is not possible. But if someone manages to perform the same, he escapes the cycle of birth and death and breaks the laws of karma, hence should be considered liberated.


There are tantric perspectives where consciousness is invoked inside different murtis (vigrahas), or demons often being turned into rocks to imprison them. This is more likely - by providing them a place or limiting their movement than turning them into rocks. A deity being provided a place to appear and sit like a chair is not a deity being transformed into a chair.

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A Jiva which has reached the human stage may be attached to an animal, or to a plant, or, if he be very tamasic, even to a stone, till he has learned to use the human form better. Then he is like a man in prison, shut out from human society, and unable to use his human powers, for want of freedom. To note that Jiva can be a stone! .....Ref. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EHG7OdJLWeoVRYukD-1Xl_SwCHPbM9q3/view?fbclid=IwAR2-9AY8JMx3d3RBJid-TjEe9f4a4szmgKByu7eoHWv61KJSMdLu6PMPIWg

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