AskDefine | Define transmigrate

Dictionary Definition



1 be born anew in another body after death; "Hindus believe that we transmigrate" [syn: reincarnate]
2 move from one country or region to another and settle there; "Many Germans migrated to South America in the mid-19th century"; "This tribe transmigrated many times over the centuries" [syn: migrate]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. To migrate to another country.
  2. In the context of "intransitive|of the soul": To pass into another body after death.

Extensive Definition

''For other uses see Transmigration (disambiguation)
Transmigration of the soul (sometimes given simply as Transmigration) is a philosophy of reincarnation incorporating the specific belief that after death, the soul of a living being is then transferred (or transmigrates) into another living form and thus takes birth again.
The philosophy of transmigration is often connected with a belief that the karma (or, the actions) of the soul in one life (or, more generally, a series of past lives) determines the future existence. It is a belief found within Hindu traditions (such as Yoga, Vaishnavism, and Jainism), Greek philosophy, animism, theosophy, anthroposophy, Wicca, and other theological systems, including Kabballa and a number of minority Christian groups (e.g. Cathars).
Some psychic mediums of a variety of religious persuasions (from Wiccan all the way to Christian) and some Spiritualists believe in transmigration of the soul but hold that reincarnation is an anomaly if it occurs at all.

Transmigration in Hinduism and Buddhism

As the believed nature of the soul (jiva or atman) has a significant impact on any philosophy concerning transmigration, there are a number of significant differences between both Hindu and Buddhist versions as well as minor differences within the varied Hindu and Buddhist traditions themselves. In general, the Hindu belief in transmigration is different from the concept of Rebirth in Buddhism because, in Hinduism, a soul is both immutable and eternal, but in many schools of Buddhism the soul is believed to be susceptible to change, and thus the character of a soul from a previous life is imprinted on the new one.
  • ''"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change".'' (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, texts 12-13)

Platonism, transmigration, and "innate knowledge"

The transmigration of souls, or metempsychosis, is a concept which underpins Plato's ideas concerning innate knowledge. Plato may have incorporated this concept from two Greek religious groups that preceded him: the Pythagoreans or the Orphics. Plato taught that "all learning is but recollection" because we have innate knowledge of universal ideas (e.g., everywhere, a triangle has 3 sides—hence its universality) from the past experiences of our immortal soul. This soul, according to Platonic thought, once separated from the body, spends an indeterminate amount of time in "formland" (see The Allegory of the Cave in The Republic) and then assumes another body. Therefore, according to Plato, we need only recall our buried memories to manifest innate knowledge.

Popular culture

Transmigration, although not directly referred to as such, has been used frequently to the point of being an overblown cliché in the sense of people "switching bodies," in which the identities of two or more characters transmigrate to each others bodies. This concept has been used many times in various films, most obviously Vice Versa and Freaky Friday, and in the popular television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In the anime Angel Tales twelve girls were sent to live with and watch over a young man as guardian angels. All twelve were former pets of his who died and transmigrated.
It has been used as preincarnation in the television series Quantum Leap, in which the protagonist Sam Beckett would be reborn in the psychic aura of those in the past. He doesn't switch bodies psychically or mentally, but takes on their appearance through a psychic aura, while they are reincarnated as him in the future.
The concept also appears in the first and third parts of the Silent Hill series. The spirit of Alessa Gillespie transmigrated into the daughter of Harry Mason, Cheryl, after Alessa was burned to death in a cultist ritual. In the third game, the main protagonist, Heather, is actually another transmigration of Alessa's soul.

The Arts

An examination of transmigration in the arts, perhaps more directly spiritual than the popular culture aspect above, was author Philip K. Dick's novel The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.
transmigrate in Arabic: تقمص
transmigrate in Urdu: آواگون

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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