John the Baptist was a Jewish prophet. He told people that they needed to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, or deliverer of the Jews. John urged people to repent and to seek forgiveness for their sins. To show their repentance, people came to John to be baptized. John immersed his followers in the Jordan River. This immersion, or baptism, was symbolic. It signified spiritual cleansing and rebirth.

Today baptism is an important Christian ceremony. The ceremony still involves water, whether just a sprinkling or complete immersion. Why do you think water is used in this ceremony?

Transmigration of Souls

In the Hindu view of life, the soul is not permanently attached to one body. A soul first enters the world in the body of a simple life form – not a human. When that first body dies, the soul moves on to a more complex life form and is reborn there. This has been compared to the way people outgrow clothes and need new ones. The process of rebirth is called samsara, The Bhagavad Gita, part of a Hindu epic, says:

Worn-out garments are shed by the body; worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller.

When the soul has reached a certain level of development it enters a human body. It continues to pass from body to body, but the choices the soul makes in each life affect the next life. Unkind acts in one lifetime may mean hardships in the next lifetime. In this way, the soul creates its own future. If bad things happen to us, we have no one to blame but ourselves; these bad things are caused by our own negative acts in past lives.

If people are responsible for their own futures, what would be the best way to act in this lifetime?