Reincarnation and the Search for Meaning – Evidence, Explanation & Evolution
[Talk at Vital Yoga Institute, Denver, USA]
Transcription of Summary Lecture
I started by talking about how anecdotal ideas about incarnation… that some dead relative comes back, and on the other hand science which is very rational and evidence-based body of knowledge… search for knowledge… but still the scientific search for knowledge doesn’t lead to a meaningful life for many people because even people who are good in science, good in technology… still sometimes they succumb to self-destructive habits because they don’t have a… there can be many reasons but one of the reason is, that it doesn’t really give them a deep sense of meaning in life. There is some fulfilment but what is… death is the ultimate meaning-destroyer in life.
So, when we face some evidence which seems to destroy the meaningfulness of our world-view… we have two alternates… either we just sideline that evidence and go on with our normal world-view calling that as bad data or we try to expand our world-view. So, science advances by examining the data that … 1:16…, like Newton… when He observed the fruit falling… ‘What makes a fruit fall?’ That was the question of… why do things, how do things work?… it is a question of what is the meaning of it all, but when particles, moving items… at a very microscopic level, at a very macroscopic level couldn’t be explained… science expanded its theories, and so by the expansion of those theories now we have better understanding of the world around us.
So, similarly rather than rejecting death as bad data, we try to expand our worldview, and reincarnation and specially the past life memories which point towards reincarnation… they can be evidences for expanding that worldview, for prompting us towards changing our theoretical framework of life. I discuss various levels of evidences: anecdotal evidences, then celebrity reincarnation cases and then hypnotic regression therapy. These are relatively speaking stronger evidences. Hypnotic regression is possible, but it could a recollection, it could be a suggestion… we don’t know for sure. If there are cases where there are Xenoglossy and Xenography… foreign languages being spoken or written then that is more tangible, but the most tangible evidence is with respect to past life memory among children where there are four level of evidences – recollection and recognition, behaviour and birth marks and birth defects.
So, I talked about the case of Nese Budak who reincarnated as Nes Buddha Kiran, and how he exhibited all these four things, and actually the six correlating birth marks are very strong biological tangible evidence, and similarly his knowledge about the scar on his ex-wife’s body or his behaviour in terms of dealing with his wife or his children… they are not so easily explainable within the materialistic world view.
So, just as one white crow is enough to challenge the idea that all crows are black, even one case of a person remembering a past life is enough to challenge the idea that we are simply our bodies and death is the end of our existence.
So, I talked about three points: evidence, explanation and evolution. This is the evidence, what is the explanation for this? The Bhagavat Gita offers us a model of the self, model of the human person where we are not just our bodies but there is the body and the soul. So, for the soul the body is like the vehicle, and if a vehicle gets damaged then the soul… just as we take a different vehicle, the soul takes a different body, or like if we have a house in which we are living, if our tendency period gets expired then we just go to another house… say the soul moves from one body to another, and the explanation would be that in the material level… as Nese Budak and Nes Buddha Kiran are non-intersecting sects; so the intersection between them is something non-material, and that is the soul.
So, if there is a soul which reincarnates then that is the most rational explanation for past life memories, and then what is the purpose of reincarnation? It is to evolve in our understanding of life and ultimately of what is life’s purpose? What is that we are meant to live for? So, evolution is in our understanding of what is the eminently worthy object of our love, object of our devotion and dedication, and the Gita explains that we are parts of the whole and ultimately we are longing to love an eternal object. Not knowing about our source, about the whole… we seek to eternalize our relationship with different people in the world, and that’s what leads to romance novels or romance movies talking about happily ever after, but that happily ever is not just fantasy… it can be actualized when the finite’s consciousness… that is we soul’s unite with the infinite consciousness… that is the whole, and the purpose of reincarnation is to redirect our love from the world to the source of the world. So, all the yoga systems are meant for that purpose.
The system of astanga yoga focuses on bodily regulation so that we can become… get emotional de-infatuation from the world, and bhakti yoga takes this forward and says that… not just de-infatuation from the world, but rather we want to develop devotion to the source of the world. So, for the soul to be simply detached is not possible because the mind has to think of something, and if we say, ‘No, this world is… I will detach from the world, I will not think about the worldly objects.’ But even in not thinking something, they are thinking of something. So, we need a alternative object to devote ourselves to, and the process of bhakti yoga… in involving in activities like chanting sacred matra’s…. this is meant to elevate our consciousness to help us increase our devotion for the source of everything…. source of the world, source of us all, and if by the end of our life our love for the source of the world becomes greater than our love for the world, then we go beyond this world to the eternal world and that is life’s ultimate meaning, and whatever gives us meaning right now if we spiritualize that and see it not as an independent source of meaning but see it as integrated with ultimate source of meaning, overall evolution towards eternal life, then we can see that life is meaningful not just in patches, not just islands of meanings in the ocean of meaninglessness but rather of islands of meaning which point us towards an ultimate landmass, a eternal life which is where enduring meaning and fulfilment can be found.
Thank You very much
(Transcription by Sadananda Kr