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Reply Wed 26 Aug, 2009 11:41 pm
For some perspective, just consider the response of Ramana Maharishi, who was in the view of many the greatest of the Hindu sages to have lived in modern times (died 1960):

Question: Is reincarnation true?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.

[Note: Comments by David Godman: Most religions have constructed elaborate theories which purport to explain what happens to the individual soul after the death of the body. Some claim that the soul goes to heaven or hell while others claim that it is reincarnated in a new body.
Sri Ramana Maharshi taught that all such theories are based on the false assumption that the individual self or soul is real; once this illusion is seen through, the whole superstructure of after-life theories collapses. From the standpoint of the Self, there is no birth or death, no heaven or hell, and no reincarnation.
As a concession to those who were unable to assimilate the implications of this truth, Sri Ramana would sometimes admit that reincarnation existed. In replying to such people he would say that if one imagined that the individual self was real, then that imaginary self would persist after death and that eventually it would identify with a new body and a new life. The whole process, he said, is sustained by the tendency of the mind to identify itself with a body. Once the limiting illusion of mind is transcended, identification with the body ceases, and all theories about death and reincarnation are found to be inapplicable.]

Question: Can a yogi know his past lives?

Maharshi: Do you know the present life that you wish to know the past? Find the present, then the rest will follow. Even with our present limited knowledge, you suffer so much. Why should you burden yourself with more knowledge? Is it to suffer more?

When seen through the sight of the supreme space of Self, the illusion of taking birth in this mirage-like false world is found to be nothing but the egotistical ignorance of identifying a body as "I". Among those whose minds are possessed with forgetfulness of Self, those who are born will die and those who die will be born again. But know that those whose minds are dead, having known the glorious Supreme Reality, will remain only there in that elevated state of reality, devoid of both birth and death. Forgetting Self, mistaking the body for Self, taking innumerable births, and at last knowing Self and being Self is just like waking from a dream of wandering all over the world.

From Reincarnation
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 12:05 am
I like the subject, but I just don't see how such a thing is possible let alone practical.

This assumes that the universe has some methodology to how beings form. If you are bad then you take on a bad existence and if you are good you take on a more pleasant existence. Well who is keeping track? Is it purely the mind itself that decides? Well if it's the mind then it can be manipulated so even the worse offender could will themselves into an existence in which they did not deserve. You might argue well no since the mind can not ignore the wrong doings it would naturally feel sorrow and guilty for the bad it has done and will honestly take the correct rebirth. WHAT? Since when has the mind ever been so honest? Think about it, if you were already a liar, you think upon death you aren't going to try to manipulate the system and lie to yourself? That you will in some way become an honest mind and rule justly?

Therefore the only other way it could work is that someone else determines the result of the next birth. But the Buddha already pointed out that no such beings exist. It is by your own actions that determine your future result.

But how does the mind know? Also there is another underline problem with rebirth that is rarely ever mentioned. If I were to fall destined to a lower birth cycle what exactly am I getting from it if I turn into a worm or a dog? So I get born as a dog with limited capacity to do other than what dogs do. So what? I don't have any memory of being a person previously so how is this a "corrective" system? The only way it becomes corrective is from a humanistic point of view. Why? Because we look at a dog and say, "Well I don't want to be a dog, so what do I have to do so I don't become a dog in my next life?" This is the only time such a thought occurs. Once you are a dog, you are not concerned about turning into a worm or some bacteria, so go ahead and bite the mean neighbor and eat the ugly cat and crap on your owners rug so he gets mad and yells at his wife for not taking you outside earlier.

So the whole system is self created and only relevant to humans. No worms are thinking, "Well I should be the best worm I can be so maybe in a few billion years I'll get another shot at being a human." To the worm infinite amount of time is meaningless and so is the system that put you there.

Here is another aspect to consider. Let's say you get reborn in the hell realm. Are you standing there in the lake of fire or being consumed by some iron pit bull that you are going to remind yourself, "When I get out of here, I am going to be the most honest, the best and kindest human I can possibly be so I never return here." So then you get reborn as a human and since you lacked the knowledge of being in hell, you go about things completely by a fluke. You might steal or rob here, or maybe worse but what ever the case my point is since you have no idea where you were how can it have an effect on where you are going? It can't. So everything is a fluke with retribution. If it's a fluke with retribution it seems like a really bad way to design a system.

It would be like tossing a person into jail without them remembering what they did to put themselves there in the first place.
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 12:24 am
You are correct, it is absolutely impossible to come up with a rational theory of how reincarnation and karma actually works. Completely impossible. But it does happen and I think all that is required is that one has an open mind about it. There is definite evidence of children who remember their last lives, it is indisputable. But it doesn't pay to get too fascinated by it, in my view.
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 12:35 am
You are correct, it is absolutely impossible to come up with a rational theory of how reincarnation and karma actually works. Completely impossible. But it does happen and I think all that is required is that one has an open mind about it.

You do not at all seem to think it strange how at one point say there is no rational way to explain rebirth but it works. Wouldn't the knowledge of it working give clues to how it can be explained?

Even the dali lama who is titled to be the reincarnation of the previous dali lama can not give any substantial and definitive confirmation that he was the dali lama in a previous life. In fact he is so uncertain that he proposed doing away with the tradition and just electing his successor.


There is definite evidence of children who remember their last lives, it is indisputable. But it doesn't pay to get too fascinated by it, in my view.

I have seen videos and shows but nothing I would consider "definitive evidence" of rebirth. Sure there are some striking and hard to explain senarios but at the same time there has always been some incorrect information. My verdict is inconclusive evidence.
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 12:51 am
It will never be explainable in my view.

You need to check out the material collected by Prof Ian Stevenson, late of University of Virginia. He spent 20-30 years gathering information, interviewing children, and stuck to a very scrupulous empirical process to avoid contamination, fraud, and so on. Some of his evidence is impossible to dispute. The interesting thing is, there are some people who will never, ever accept that it could happen on the grounds that 'it can never happen'. I got a book about Stevenson called Old Souls by a journo called Thomas Shroder, although once you get over the gee whiz factor, there is really not much in it.
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 01:32 am
You need to check out the material collected by Prof Ian Stevenson.

Alright I'll check it out. The point I was making is even if it is true, it does absolutely no good for you. If you are not aware in your next life then it is as if that existence was your only existence. Just like I don't have any memories that I am aware of that I have ever lived before, so how does that existence help me? It can't however someone can make claims all day long about why my life is the way it is because of some past life. It doesn't help me one bit. In fact all it does is add uncertainty and even some apprehension that was never there before. If it is creating some fear then by all means we are back to a reward and punishment system which I am highly skeptical about. "Be good or santa won't bring you presents." or "Be good or else you will become a hungry ghost." I am no longer trying to be good because good is something admirable, I am being good because I don't want to be punished. This doesn't make a good person.

Lift the ban on murder and how many people will murder? If it were legal to kill someone would you kill someone?
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 04:18 am
I have gone beyond the reward and punishment motivation long since. As Aristotle said, virtue is its own reward. That is absolute truth.

Actually the big breakthrough moment I had with many lives was this one. I was studying prehistoric anthropology at university. I was quite immersed in the subject. Suddenly one day I had this very poignant feeling. I thought about who my forefather was, many thousands of years ago. I looked at my body (I am lucky to have such a good body:-) I thought, well in 23,000 bc 'I' would have had a body like this. Whoever 'I' was then, I also had a life, and probably went through untold hardship and suffering. In those days, of course, life was unthinkably different to us moderns now. But then I suddenly had this realisation that all the ancestors were, in a sense, also 'I'. They were people just like me - they were me - they had their struggles, tragedies, joys and hardships. But in the end, they succeeded, because here I am. And I embody many of the characteristics which they developed, physical, mental, cultural and even personal. Now of course I know this is not the way people usually understand 'reincarnation' but ever since then I have felt considerably more comfortable in my own skin, so to speak.
Serena phil
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 04:36 am
I tend to have higher hopes for the re-birthing cycle over a persistent afterlife. However, since every previous life cannot be recollected, every life is essentially lived out like it is your last anyway, unless you truly believe in an afterlife. I do occasionally wonder if it is or has ever been possible to have this state of consciousness again, but it is probably not possible to know since every birth is like your first. Belief in reincarnation does not really alternate my basic pursuits in life nor the "afterlife."

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