I recently came across an interesting report from The Today Show on NBC about a 10-year old boy Ryan from the Midwest who claimed to remember his past life as a movie extra and later a successful Hollywood agent who died more than 50 years ago. Ryan’s case was studied by Dr. Jim Tucker, professor of psychiatry from the University of Virginia who investigated over the years more than 2,500 such cases and verified the facts from the deceased agent’s life to match the story told by the boy. Though the report was not intended to prove the existence of reincarnation, it did shed some light on the validity of such stories (see the video below).
The concept of reincarnation is central to many religions, including Hindu, Kabbalah, Theosophy, Hermeticism, and many others. According to this doctrine, each soul goes through a series of lifetimes for its spiritual growth and development. As the soul evolves or degrades from life to life, it experiences the consequences of its previous actions and is reborn again and again in the conditions that best correspond to its past actions based on the law of karma.
Several religious schools, including Hindus, believe that the reasons for reincarnation are to experience the fruits of one’s karma, satisfy one’s desires, complete one’s unfinished deed, fulfil a debt, or attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Or as the Buddhist say, “the basic cause is the abiding of consciousness in ignorance.” So when ignorance is eradicated, rebirth comes to an end.
But does it really matter if one believes in reincarnation? Believing in it does not mean that we have to dwell upon our past or brag about what we used to be in the past life. As an American mystic Edgar Cayce once said:
“In the studies, then, know where ye are going … to find that ye only lived, died and were buried under the cherry tree in Grandmother’s garden does not make thee one whit better neighbor, citizen, mother or father! But to know that ye spoke unkindly and suffered for it and in the present may correct it by being righteous – that is worthwhile!”
For many of us, whether we know about reincarnation from personally remembering our past lives or simply believe in this concept, the idea of reincarnation can provide us a better understanding of our personal conditions and the world around us in the present. It can also explain the moral and intellectual differences among people and allow us to have more compassion towards each other. Regardless if we choose to believe or not to believe in it, at some point in our life we may begin to question ourselves – if our memories and information about our past actions never really disappear or stop to affect our life in the present, does this information go away after our present life is over? A lot of people would answer “No, it never really vanishes.”