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7th March 2002 - Page 2


“Reincarnation is the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death.” How many of us believe in reincarnation? How many of us have seriously thought about it? Is this life the be-all and end-all? Is everything annihilated when we die? Is there no coming back ever? A frightening thought, isn’t it? But not so for those who believe in reincarnation. 

There is no scientific proof of reincarnation but there have been many documented cases of past life memories. When a child is in its mother's womb, or is a one-year-old, it is not in a fit state to remember anything long term - so whether we like it or not, it actually makes sense that most adults can't remember anything from before a very young age, let alone from before this life. Having said that, there have always been some people who have claimed to remember past lives. The area of children's past lives is quite remarkable - especially in western countries, where children have seldom been exposed to the concept of reincarnation. Often such memories can fade as some grow up, while others will be able to recall past incarnations all their life.

Thousands of cases have been documented by various researchers from around the world and some children are recorded as having described their past life residence and recognised family members by name - even when these families are in a different district - and even successfully passed tests set by the identified family. What is remarkable here is that in most cases the children appear to have no incentive, financial or otherwise, to make such claims. 

Besides children, others get spontaneous glimpses into their past because a specific event triggers the memory. Such memories are as mysterious as any other unexplained (or psychic) abilities. Unfortunately such people often keep these memories to themselves - for fear of ridicule. If people are open to the idea, and approach the subject with people in an appropriate way, it can be surprising how many people you do meet who have experienced some kind of past life memory.

It might come to you as a surprise that many great figures of history and world famous personalities have embraced the idea of reincarnation. This of course neither proves nor disproves the concept, but it can certainly be interesting to note. Pythagoras had memories of many of his past lives. Socrates had said, "I am confident there is truly such a thing as living again. That the living spring from the dead and the souls of the dead are in existence. Rudyard Kipling believed that the dead would come back again as long as the red earth rolls. He said God, "never wasted a leaf or a tree. Do you think He would squander souls?" Carl Jung said "I can well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries ... that I had to be born again because I had not fulfilled the task Memories, Dreams and Reflections given to me." 
Beneath the belief of reincarnation is the theory that each life is born again and again according to one’s Karma. The theory of Karma is the idea behind rebirth. According to the Karma theory one is born again in accordance with ones deeds in past lives. The Hindu belief in the theory of Karma propogates that the soul may increase in purity in successive existence until it reaches a divine world. 

How does our belief in reincarnation in relation to the theory of karma affect our present life? Is the belief that our present sufferings and misfortunes are the result of our past deeds, a boon or a bane? Many believe it makes people complacent and resigned, while others agree with the view taken by Somerset Maugham: transmigration is an explanation and a justification of the evil of the world. If the evils we suffer are the result of sins committed in our past lives, we can bear them with resignation and hope that if in this one we strive toward virtue our future lives will be less afflicted." 

All said and done, reincarnation till this day remains a mystery beyond the comprehension of believers and non-believers. Despite the belief of philosophers, writers, poets, and the vividness of the reported cases, science has not been able to accept it. It demands scientific explanation. Let us hope that some day a scientific explanation may emerge.

Siddharth Bhela

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