Do we somehow continue after death? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? Does some “soul” or “essence” leave our bodies when we die and move on to incarnate in a new body, a new form? And if we do reincarnate…why don’t we remember?
These questions might be dismissed as irrelevant, and even dangerous, by our current scientific and materialistic society.
But reincarnation is still taken for granted in many cultures around the world. Many of the people of India, Nepal, and Tibet for example, find it strange that Americans and Europeans are so skeptical about it.
The reason for this is they have a daily lived experience of reincarnation. It’s all around them: in their holy scriptures, their oral histories, their mythologies, even their television shows.More than that, people who remember their past lives are living among them every day. They are the gurus, lamas, and “Rinpoches” who have traveled from body to body in full possession of their conscious awareness. They remember.
In the Tibetan lama tradition they even prove these memories by passing rigorous tests and checks. Reincarnated lamas are expected to remember specific details of their previous lives-their old possessions, books, places they lived, people they knew-from a very young age. Only when these proofs have been fully satisfied are they given the honorific title, Rinpoche, or Precious One.
That may be all well and good for an ancient religion but how does considering past lives help us in our modern world?
In some ways the answer lies in the question. A strong argument can be made that this “modern” world is actually quite sick. Our values are all askew. Money and power are valued over land, animals, and even human beings. The sufferings of violence, depression, isolation, addiction, suicide, climate catastrophe, and all the rest are reaching unbearable levels.
Part of the reason for all of this is that we have forgotten who we truly are. We have ceased to realize that we are spiritual beings having human experience. And part of our spiritual nature is that we are, in fact, eternal. We change form but not essence.
By exploring our past life memories we can begin to reclaim our spiritual birthright and heritage. We can start the work of cleansing and healing the trauma of living and forgetting one painful existence after another. Knowing that we have been here before, we can begin to calm our paralyzing fear of death. We then regain the perspective that this life and all its pains and pleasures are merely transitory, freeing us to focus on our true purpose in this life: spiritual growth and a deep experience of being alive.