Reincarnation vs. Incarnation: How are they different?

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Difference between Reincarnation and Incarnation

Incarnation and reincarnation are both terms of some religious significance that has similar meanings. In both cases, a spiritual being is taking on a physical body, but the meanings of incarnation and reincarnation are very different. Incarnation refers to a process undergone by gods or higher beings, while reincarnation is an ongoing process through which all souls pass.


Spiritual and Physical Beings

Incarnation is a concept that relates to the activities of a god or higher spiritual being of some kind. Reincarnation is a concept that is related to a belief in the continuing existence of the soul or energy of a body after death.

Incarnation involves the physical embodiment of a deity or a spiritual being of some kind. It enables a god, deity or divine being to descend to earth and take on a physical, often human, form. In the Christian tradition, for example, incarnation involves the embodiment of the spirit of God in the human form of Jesus. In the Hindu tradition, incarnation typically refers to the physical embodiment or avatar of Vishnu, although it can also refer to incarnations of other deities such as Shiva or Ganesha.

Reincarnation is a concept that does not typically involve a deity. Instead, it is a term that is used to refer to the repeated incarnation or physical embodiment of a soul. When the body dies, the soul passes into a purely physical state, but it then returns into a physical body, or is re-incarnated again. A reincarnated soul may return in a different form, such as an animal rather than a human. The soul continues to exist when the body is destroyed, and it passes through a cycle of reincarnation.


Incarnation is a process that a spiritual being can undergo once or on multiple separate occasions. The spiritual beings that undergo incarnation are not part of a cycle of reincarnation.

Meanwhile, reincarnation is usually thought of as an ongoing process. The soul will continue to be reincarnated into new physical bodies, until it breaks free from the cycle. This can be achieved when the soul attains the highest possible physical state, so that it is able to progress into a purely spiritual being.

Incarnation can continue as long as there are physical bodies into which the deity or spirit can be incarnated, but the reincarnation of a particular soul ends once it is able to free itself from the cycle.


The concepts of incarnation and reincarnation appear in a number of different religions. Incarnation plays a role in faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, some forms of Islam, Baha'i, the Ancient Egyptian religion, and Rastafarianism.

Meanwhile, reincarnation occurs mainly in the Eastern religions Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. A similar concept occurs in Buddhism and it also appears in some ancient Greek philosophies and folk religions. A belief in reincarnation is not common in the Abrahamic religions, but certain sects have emerged within these religions that have included a belief in reincarnation. These include the Cathars, Rosicrucians, Druze and Kabbalah.


  • Incarnation and reincarnation are two spiritual concepts that both relate to the embodiment of a soul or a spiritual being in a physical body.
  • The beings who undergo these processes and the ways in which they work are very different.
  • Some religions believe in both incarnation and reincarnation, while others may believe in only one concept, or in neither.
  • Incarnation occurs when a god or spiritual being takes on a physical form.
  • Reincarnation occurs when a soul or spirit moves through a cycle or birth and rebirth.
  • Incarnation can be a one-off event, but reincarnation is an ongoing cycle.


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