Do human beings live only once, or are we granted the opportunity to return after death and experience many different lives? Reincarnation is an anglicized word of Latin derivation, meaning "reinfleshment," the coming again into a human body of an excarnate soul. Today approximately 30 million Americans, one in four, believe in reincarnation. The process of reincarnation is the continual rebirth in human bodies, which allegedly continues until the soul has reached a state of perfection and merges back with its source, either God or the universal Soul. The question of reincarnation has been examined for thousands of years and has been embraced to varying degrees by numerous religions. Although to some people the idea of reincarnation is ridiculous, others would call this reaction uneducated and boneheaded (Bache, 27). I will show evidence of evoked and spontaneous cases which, in light of my personal experiences, are creditable.
The ideas of reincarnation are not concrete and can be difficult for present day culture to grasp. Many scholars point toward Hinduism as one of the earliest religions to offer explanations of reincarnation. Hinduism, originating sometime during the ninth century BCE, is the most ancient of the surviving great religions. The adoption of the belief in rebirth can be found in Hindu scriptures dating around 600 BCE. As time progressed, suggestions of reincarnation began to be found in Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, and Christianity (Ludwig 31). Though all of these religions do not fully embrace or teach the theory of rebirth, they do reflect a great desire among diverse beliefs and lifestyles to know what happens after death.
With regard to the search about what transpires posthumously, many people see reincarnation as an explanation for many of the great questions about life. Such as, why do we suffer? Does life have meaning? How do we explain child prodigies? Are memories about past lives valid? The following discussion of how the theory of rebirth can answer some of life’s most difficult questions will provide supportive evidence collected throughout the years to appeal to Western minds that find the idea of multiple lives difficult to accept or grasp. “For better or for worse, we are a culture that deeply values the weight of evidence” (Bache 17). Religion in the Western regions of the world is predominately Christian. Among the people practicing Christianity, the idea prevails that God is omnipotent. However, the belief in an all-powerful God brings up an interesting dilemma. If God is responsible for all that happens in the universe, why is there widespread suffering? Is this God an unsympathetic God and does he feel the need to punish some people? Many people cannot accept the idea that the center of their worship would act with cruelty; therefore, many believe that God is a loving and kind God. But if God controls the universe with a loving hand, why have there been floods, deadly famines, and children born into poverty or deformation? Why do so many seem to live such difficult lives? There are no clear answers to any of these questions. However, reincarnation affirms justice at work in the world. The Law of Karma is the law of causality extended in the world of human action. Simply stated, every human action -- mental, emotional or physical -- produces an exactly appropriate reaction. Therefore, suffering, an expression of past deeds and a passage to future life experience, does not result from God’s hatred or indifference, but rather expresses a definite universal law. Reincarnation offers the hope for a better future because it suggests that with each life we gain knowledge and prepare for the next life. The process of growth through physical experience continues through death and proceeds through different bodies. The Law of Cause and Effect govern the time and means of death. The final stage of the cycle occurs when the soul, free from desire and perfectly happy with life and all that has been experienced, enters the state of nirvana or enlightenment. Christianity does not embrace reincarnation and teaches that once a person dies, one’s soul can go to Heaven, Hell, or in some cases Purgatory. However, in a single life span, with its variety of experience, the attainment of physical, intellectual, and spiritual “perfection” would be impossible. Reincarnation makes each individual’s eventual perfection achievable.
In addition to their religious objections to reincarnation, Westerners often make the statement, “I don’t want to come here again.” Statements like this reveal an attitude of weariness with this body, this life, perhaps because the speaker cannot imagine another. However, this statement is made without the understanding that one does not return to the same life or the same body. The true self cannot die; only the body. The body has a beginning and an end, but the soul is eternal.
Christopher M. Bache cites many cases in Lifecycles showing past life experiences. When a child is born, it is a time for family and friends to guess what is in store for this new life and what kind of person the child will grow to be. But, does this child begin with a blank slate, or is it full of experiences of past lives? This question comes into the foreground especially with regard to younger children. How could Parmod Sharma, at the age of two and a half, speak of a city he has never seen and the events of a whole different life? He remembers many specifics of his past life: his wife, his distaste for curd, and the store he owned. When he finally visits the Mehra family he recognizes many people and familiar objects that he would have never known if he was not Parmanand in a previous life. The most remarkable aspect of this case is that their names are so similar. Reincarnation validates the idea that skills and memories result from prior life experiences, and that these show in the early stages of a Child’s life.
Another striking endorsement of reincarnation is the existence of people who have memories of events completely unrelated to themselves or their current circumstances, but credible and creditable when considered as recollections of their past lives. Accurate memories of a past life are due to transference of experiences from one body to the next. The validity of the accounts is controversial because it is often difficult for scientists to prove whether or not a person is actually have a memory or are creating an imagined experience. However, there have been hundreds of documented cases where the only reliable explanation is reincarnation. One such case is Romy Crees. At four she had spontaneous memories of being Joe Williams. She feared motorcycles because she said she died in a motorcycle accident in her previous life. She went into great detail about her past experience and her / Joe’s mother Louise (Bache, 1). Is it possible for a four year old to make up such an elaborate story with her facts matching up to this man’s life? There is only one explanation for this example of reincarnation. How can this story not be creditable? There are facts and evidence. Isn’t that what the Western skeptic wants? I am a firm believer in science, reason, and the need for proof; but how can one argue with such clearly elaborated evidence? Dr Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia has spent thirty years investigating reincarnation. His strongest cases are based on children with pre-natal memories that can be verified, often in considerable detail and in circumstances that made it highly unlikely that the children would have sought out the information.
While the memories of past lives support the idea of rebirth, those that do not have such memories ask how can past lives exist if they cannot recall them? To that question, one can answer that there are many experiences that we had but do not remember. Memories of one’s own birth, first steps, and learning to read are often not accessible, but one cannot deny that they occurred. If we could recall every mundane detail of every day life, our brains would become overly cluttered. This forgetful “space-saving” allows capacity for new experiences and new memories. Even though one may not remember their past life, the experiences are forever ingrained into their soul. To access this, one must be able to separate from the physical self and attachments to the physical world of the senses. When this separation occurs, one can become aware of past experiences. Through meditation and therapy one can reach into deeper memories, and even into past lives. Curious about their past lives, many expend great time, effort and money to explore them. There are many different methods for evoking memories of previous lives. The most common is hypnosis (Bache, 42).
This curious probing into past lives may be unnecessary, unadvisable, or even dangerous. I believe it is a natural protection from the pain of reliving past trauma or the distracting infatuation with our past lives which could retard our development in this one. Chakras are not easily accessed (Bache, 141). This is a beneficial safe guard, for our existance now is a sum total of all our past lives. In our present moment, our mind and body state is the cumulative result of the entire spectrum of our past lives. It is how we currently live that positively shapes karma and unfolds us spiritually. Knowing the laws of karma and reincarnation, we are responsible to resolve blossoming karmas from past lives and create karma that, projected into the future, will advance, not hinder, us