The Vedic scriptures don’t tell us that the only purpose of reincarnation is to learn.
According to the Vedic sages, the living entity forgetful of his eternal relationship with God, or Krishna, wants to enjoy independently in the material world, so Krishna affords him repeated opportunities to try to do so.
Sometimes the living entity wants to experience the supposed enjoyment of flying, so Krishna may grant him the body of a bird. Sometimes he wants to enjoy eating without discrimination, so Krishna may give him the body of a pig.
In this way, the bewildered living being can repeatedly pursue–for unlimited lifetimes–the material enjoyments for which he has come to this material world.
On the other hand, Krishna gives the living being repeated opportunities to turn away from the fruitless prospect of independent material enjoyment, attain spiritual self-realization, and regain the eternal relationship with Him.
- Krishna offers guidance through books of wisdom, like the Vedic literature.
- He offers guidance through His saintly devotees.
- And He also prompts us from within.
In this way, we may embark on the path of spiritual advancement. And whatever progress we make is our permanent gain. So even if we don’t complete the project in one lifetime, in the next we can take it up where we left off.
Materially, whatever we have gained in one lifetime we leave behind when life is over. The millionaire can’t take with him even a penny. The professor can’t hold on to even a shred of his erudition.
But spiritually, according to the Bhagavad-gita, whatever gains one makes are never lost. If one takes up the path of spiritual advancement but fails to complete it, he may be granted a birth in a pious family or a wealthy one. Or, still better, he may be born in a family of transcendentalists. He then revives the spiritual consciousness of his previous life and again tries to make further progress.
By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to spiritual principles—even without seeking them. And when he engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, he is gradually freed of all contaminations. Then, ultimately, after many, many births of practice, he achieves perfection and attains the supreme goal.