Life After Death:

Memories of Former Lives

Many people believe that after death, they will continue to live on in new and different bodies. The theory of Karma and rebirth says that the mental qualities that we possess carry on from one birth to the next. But does this mean our memories are accurate? People believe they have memories of reincarnation. Some people, upon experiencing d?j? vu, feel that the experience is a proof of existence of former lives. Some think the truth comes out under hypnosis while others believe just from their memory. But is this good evidence to back up the belief of life after death? 

The doctrine of karma says that one experiences déjà vu because of reincarnation. But how accurate is this statement? These people have the sense of having visited a place before. Many people argue that this sort of experience is vague in its nature. It might have many possible explanations. Since déjà vu is a feeling, perhaps the feeling arose from something else. Something else in the environment could have caused one to feel like they've been here before. These explanations can be based on childhood memories that are "similar" but not identical. Maybe they saw a place that resembles the place they are claiming to have lived in before. It is also possible they saw a photograph of it. They might feel it is déjà vu when in fact they may have forgotten that they have been there before. Another explanation could be the possession of a disorder. Memories of former lives could be the result of an illness they might be suffering from. It can even be a memory disorder and the things they are claiming to be past memories might only be bits and pieces of former memories from their "present" life. Many people claim to have spontaneous or recovered memories of past births. But how do we know this isn't a mere hallucination? They might be seeing things or imagining them. Maybe this is a matter of wishful thinking. The person "wishes" they were reincarnated. Their obsession with it probably drove them to believe it. Fraud can also play a role in such cases. How do we know the person isn't lying? 

Alleged memories of past lives are usually obtained by a procedure called hypnotic regression. Subjects are asked to recall experiences they had from present to past. They are then asked to recall events that happened before they were born. This produces memories of past reincarnations. But how do we know this is correct? The subjects could have invented such stories out of a natural desire to please the hypnotist or perhaps they don't know they are lying. People can also have false memories of past births/events because of the hypnotist himself. A hypnotist can instill false beliefs in easily affected subjects. It is possible that a hypnotist could induce the mind to generate a general type of fantasy that "feels" real. The hypnotist could make you believe you had a previous life. Thus, you can't fully believe that under hypnotic regression, the recalled memories are true. 

But now, let us suppose the story of a past life seems to be accurate. How do we know it is really accurate? What proof do we have? The subject must have obtained the details either consciously or subconsciously. He may have obtained it from books, documents or other historical material. You need proof in order to say that an argument for life after death is based on memories of former lives. Critics might say that you don't need proof in order for something to exist. But until there isn't proof that these memories are real, you can't say that life after death can be based on memories. Let's suppose the subject's account of experiences in a past life is demonstrated to be 100 percent accurate, and they couldn't have obtained details and facts about them. Then how can we be sure that this person is the same person whose experiences have been recalled? They could be memories of someone else's former life. This, then, shouldn't be used to prove the existence of life after death. Without proofs that what the subject believes is true from a former life, you don't have to believe it. One might believe that maybe it's possible that no one knows about this small detail which a subject has recalled as a past memory. But the subject still, could be making it all up. It is also possible that he might be making it all up for attention. 

One might remember having no talents in a past life. And now that in this life they are born with extraordinary talents, they are sure they have been reincarnated. They believe they did good deeds in their former lives, and as a result, they have extraordinary talents in life. This can, though, be due to their environment, or maybe it just happened. It can be a matter of coincidence too. Maybe believers of the theory of life after death feel that if they meditate and think about their past lives, they will remember. But these people usually focus their attention on one simple, repetitive thought. The more they think about it, the more they are likely to begin to hallucinate. Maybe one might remember speaking another language in the past. Upon hypnosis they recite some lines of that same language. They might be certain that they have learned this language in the past life. But maybe they just remember hearing it in their present life. You can't speak a language you never learned before. But just because you can speak another language doesn't mean that you know it. 

The theory of karma and rebirth say that qualities from our mental character continue on from one birth to the next. These qualities include talents, likes and dislikes, ones emotions, and etc. If this is true, then what about the people who claim to remember having certain qualities in their former life, but don't have these qualities in their present life? What about these subjects who claim to remember liking and disliking certain things, yet in this life, these likes and dislikes aren't the same? If these qualities change, then what is the proof that the subject is the same person as who he claims to be? People may recall dying of an illness, accident or other diseases. Such things as accidents, drugs, surgery, shock treatments, strokes, tumors, and etc., might have destroyed parts of their brains. If so, then how do we measure the accuracy of what they are presently saying? It is possible to lose memory, talents, likes and dislikes and many others because of head injuries. There is no need, then, to have faith on their memories if there are possibilities that parts of their brains might have been severely damaged. 

Although people may claim to remember things from their past lives, people need not believe them. Without proof that the past even occurred, we don't have to believe it happened. If there is no way to distinguish the statements of memory from the statements from imagination, then there is no reason to believe that there is a life after death. 

I guess it all depends where the burden of proof lies. Is reincarnation something you should disbelieve until it is proven, or is it something you should believe until it is disapproved?


More by :  Anjali Gupta

Top | Hinduism

Views: 3439      Comments: 1

Comment Geeta says clearly that a body dies but not the soul. i am also of the same opinion. but how come population goes on increasing? does it shows other living beings also tend to be born as humans? any explanations?
sanjay, allahabad

30-Aug-2011 23:16 PM

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