Tagged: reincarnation

A Reincarnation Meditation

Thibaud Saintin, The old mirror in the old bedroom, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Thibaud Saintin,
The old mirror in the old bedroom, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This meditation, supposedly Tibetan, begins by staring without blinking into a mirror and without regard to the tears as they roll down your cheeks. After 30 minutes of this, if you haven’t fainted, your past lives are supposed to materialize in the mirror in a series of images.

One guru teaches this meditation and points out that it can be a dangerous; that it requires specific training and self-knowledge prior to the devotee safely practicing it. But many listeners think they are beyond danger. They go home, lock the bedroom door, and sit staring in front of the mirror in hopes to discover their past lives. They don’t consider the warnings of the guru or the connections of the past to the present.

One survivor of this meditation technique said:

“After a while your face just melts away. You’re concentrating so hard on not shutting your eyes you begin to get really dizzy.

“Then you begin to see pictures. You’re in all the pictures yourself, but sometimes you see picture of people you know, such as your parents, or close friends.

“It’s kinda nice for your ego running a movie in which you’re always the star, but it can be dynamite for some people. I personally knew one girl who went nuts doing it.

“Who knows? Maybe she was crazy anyway. See, she did the meditation with her husband. They were up in their bedroom with their mirrors, suddenly she starts going crazy, pulling her hair out by its roots and stuff. What she saw was that she had been her husband’s mother in the life just before this one.

“Heavy, huh?

“She actually saw herself giving birth to him and breastfeeding him and everything. Sent her round the bend. Completely schiz. Nobody, not even the guru, could make her snap out of the guilt of how she was an incestuous mother, having children by her own son. Spooked her husband, too. I think she’s in a bin somewhere in the Midwest now. Never learned what happened to him or the kids.”

I thanked him for the coffee and got up to leave. He pulled me down.

“Hey, don’t you want to know what I saw in my past?”

“Of course,” I said, and sat down, acutely conscious of my bad manners.

“Well, I looked in the mirror and what I saw just about wiped me away. But it was great. It made me know I had done the right thing coming to India and staying in this ashram for four years. Wearing these dumb orange dresses.”

He was momentarily overcome with emotion. He put his arms around me, smothering me in a bear hug.

“Do you know who I have been?” he bellowed, four inches past my ear.

“Who?” I enquired, muffled in his saffron covered collarbone.

“The Buddha’s charioteer. I drove the Buddha to his destiny. Beat that!”

I couldn’t so I beat it.

–story adapted from Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East by Gita Mehta, 1994, Vintage Books, p. 39-41

Mystical Experiences

mystical experiences meditation

Below is an index of my posts related to altered or mystical states related to meditation practices.

Mystical experiences, re-interpreted

Meditation-related phenomena

Interpretations of mystical experiences

Sympathetic to “Spiritual” Experiences

Spirituality = apprehension of knowledge beyond ordinary awareness, not religious nor supernatual

Reincarnation, Afterlife

Angels, Fire-walking

The Postulant House Cat: Queen Nefertari

Nefertari Merit-en-Mut,  (nefertari mon amour), Photo : Dario J. Laganà, Model: Erika
Nefertari Merit-en-Mut,
(nefertari mon amour), Photo : Dario J. Laganà, Model: Erika

Tari, the postulant monks’ house cat, was treated like a queen. Tari was short for Queen Nefertari. The postulant monk in charge of Tari’s care and feeding was kind-of a pet of the pet Tari and of Brotherji.

Brotherji was the respectful short name for Brother Premamoy, the esteemed House Brother of the Postulant ashram or monastery. Brotherji was a real Count from Slovenia. Some people called him the Prince of Yugoslavia. For he was indeed from a royal family, and was a most gracious host and deeply caring person.

Monastery legend, or rumor depending on your perspective, was that Brotherji was the reincarnation of King Ramesses II, the great Egyptian Pharaoh and husband of the historic Queen Nefertari.

We monks rumored over other legends about which great world-leaders and poets were now reincarnate as the spiritual directors and leaders of the Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order. Yogananda was Charlemagne and Shakespeare, as SRF folklore went.

Tari (aka Nefertari), the postulant house cat.
Tari (aka Nefertari), the postulant monks’ house cat.

The real and historic Brother Premamoy (1910 -1990) was, according to Winter 1990 Self-Realization Magazine, imprisoned in three concentration camps for his participation in the Resistance movement during the Nazi occupation in WWII. After immigrating to the U.S., Brother Premamoy joined the SRF Monastic Order in the 1950s. Many other real and speculative stories, coupled with Brother’s noble personality, drew us monks into reverential awe of him. Perhaps that lent more credulity to our legend that he might be the reincarnation of the Pharaoh King, Ramesses II?

Interesting historical side note: The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, including the lion-goddess Mafdet and the cat goddess Bast or Bastet. Archaeologists have unearthed tens of thousands of Egyptian mummies of cats and humans. Entombed, mummified bodies were preserved for the “afterlife”. So the legends go.

Question to readers: Are humans gullible enough to worship anything or anyone as a god or goddess? What else do we deify that may not be considered a “traditional” god?

Reincarnation: Promise of Immortality? Or, Terror Management?

3-Year-Old Remembers Past Life, Identifies Murderer and Location of Body [1]

Dalai_Lama_boy
14th dalai lama boy

A 3-year-old boy in the Golan Heights region near the border of Syria and Israel said he was murdered with an axe in his previous life. He showed village elders where the murderer buried his body, and sure enough they found a man’s skeleton there. He also showed the elders where the murder weapon was found, and upon digging, they did indeed find an axe there.

Fire Chief Investigates Past Life as Civil War General: Group Reincarnation? [2]

Retired Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Keene stumbled upon evidence he says suggests he was Civil War General John B. Gordon in a past life. Furthermore, Keene’s fire crew seem to strongly resemble men who fought under Gordon.

A rash of reincarnation stories has been spreading through my Google RSS alerts. Many of these stories originated with the Epoch Times, an international newspaper, and from one journalist. Reincarnation stories are fascinating and strange. I’m open to the possibility there’s some unusual phenomena occurring. Do these stories demonstrate reincarnation?

Let’s dig deeper behind the phenomena and look at the evidence being presented.

Who believes in reincarnation?

from Pew Forum Survey on Religion and Public Life December 2009
from Pew Forum Survey on Religion and Public Life December 2009
  • 24% or 75 million Americans and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation, according to 2009 PEW poll [3];
  • 25% of the world population or 1 billion Hindus, 350 million Buddhists, and millions of Eastern/New Age believers believe in reincarnation;
  • Of the 7 billion people alive today, it’s been estimated that a total of 106 billion people have ever been born [4]. Where are the 99.6 billion missing souls if reincarnation is true?
Fájl: Samsara-elme, the wheel of rebirth - Wikipédia
Fájl: Samsara-elme, the wheel of rebirth – Wikipédia

The Hindu’s believe that reincarnation, is the soul’s evolutionary journey back to God, and provides repeated opportunities for growth, achievement, and fulfillment not possible in one brief lifespan of earthly existence [5]. When I was ordained a monk for 14 years, this is what I thought and tried to believe.

In the gospel, Buddha supposedly said: “There is a rebirth of karma; there is reincarnation. This rebirth, this reincarnation, this reappearance of the conformations is continuous and depends on the law of cause and effect [6]”. Buddhism emerged out of Hinduism, and adopted the doctrine of reincarnation.

Assumptions about reincarnation:

  • Death is scary. Reincarnation belief is a kind of terror management?
  • Multiple lives, more chances, and immortality. Hope, if we screw up this life we get another chance!
  • Soul, like energy in a light bulb, has to go somewhere upon death. Right?
  • Soul reincarnates and exists beyond bodily death. Like cycles or seasons of nature?
  • Memories, personalities, karmas, and identities of our self. These stay with soul?
  • The evidence for reincarnation consists of stories of past lives and of spiritual authorities.

Evidence presented for reincarnation

Boy Identifies His Past Life Axe Murderer: Behind The Story
Typically, the evidence comes from children who “remember”, like the 3 year-old boy in Golan Heights who identified his “past life” murderer [1]. This story was related by a regression therapist Trutz Hardo [7]. Dr. Lasch, who died in 2009, had recounted these astounding events to Hardo. A second hand story. The Druse, the ethnic group this boy belonged to, believe in reincarnation and that they are always reborn as Druse. This boy’s story was likely stretched to fit the beliefs of the Druse parents and the good Doctor Hardo’s past life regression beliefs.

Superman in Samsara, by theory-of-everything
Superman in Samsara, by theory-of-everything

Fire Chief Who Was A Civil War Hero-General: “Not Yet” A Psychic Party
What about the uncanny “coincidences” this Fire Chief discovered which he believes shows he is the reincarnation of Civil War General Gordon? The Chief, at a friend’s party, talked to a psychic. She asked him if he believed in reincarnation. As they were talking, the words “not yet,” appeared strongly in his mind and he was compelled to say them. Later, he went home and found a Civil War magazine that he had bought but never read. With a new interest in the subject, he decided to flip through it, and as he skimmed the pages, the words “Not yet” in quotation marks jumped out at him [2].

Really? Among other uncanny “coincidences, this “not yet” is evidence he was General Gordon? And, talking with a psychic and looking for evidence to confirm his beliefs, he would connect the dots and see patterns to convince himself he was a celebrated Civil War General. Funny that he didn’t discover he was an abused runaway slave or a nobody Southern spinstress. Everyone seems to want to be the reincarnation of a heroic and noble soul, a Mary Queen of Scots, a Charlemagne, or a Chief Geronimo! No one seems to come up with stories of reincarnation as a lowly piss boy, a medieval whore, or an Adolf Hitler?

Stories of reincarnation and past lives offer an abundance of hope with an absence of evidence. Feelings and anecdotes of unexplained coincidences are not evidence [8]. I understand the hope and desire for having more than one chance to live a life. But hope and wishful-thinking is not proof. Not close. As a former yoga monk turned skeptic, I confess I used to believe in reincarnation– in that past life.

works cited

[1] 3-Year-Old Remembers Past Life, Identifies Murderer and Location of Body, Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times, May 17, 2014

[2] Fire Chief Investigates Past Life as Civil War General: Group Reincarnation? Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times, May 20, 2014

[3] Eastern, New Age Beliefs Widespread, Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths, PEW Research Religion Project, Dec 2009

[4] Fact or Fiction?: Living People Outnumber the Dead, Scientific American, 2007

[5] Yogananda, Paramahansa. Where There Is Light, chap 2

[6] 500 BC, BUDDHA, THE GOSPEL

[7] Three-Year-Old Who Convicted His Murderer: A regression therapy case study by Trutz Hardo

[8] Stories Of Past Lives Prove Reincarnation Is Real, 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True, Guy P Harrison

The Reincarnation Blues, Stuff to Blow Your Mind Podcast.  The metaphysics of reincarnation are nothing short of enthralling, from the notion of an immortal soul drifting through myriad life forms to the intimidating Wheel of Samsara with its heavenly and hellish realms. Why does this version of immortality appeal to us? And what, if anything, can science tell us about the survival of the soul?

Laughter as Meditative State, Reincarnation, and Pantheism

This post summarizes three different articles:

  1. New study finds laughter puts our brain into a ‘true meditative state’.
  2. What Buddhists believe about reincarnation and god, from Yale-NUS Professor.
  3. Pantheism, or seeing god as everything, is growing in popularity as an alternative to organized religion, argues scholar of religious studies.
Yue Minjun's A-maze-ing Laughter, Vancouver, Canada, photo by Stefano Costanzo
Yue Minjun’s A-maze-ing Laughter, Vancouver, Canada, photo by Stefano Costanzo

New Study: Laugh Your Way Into Meditative States
Laughing puts the brain into a ‘true meditative state’ AND can improve your memory, researchers claim
– Researchers at Loma Linda University Health say the effect of laughing is similar to a ‘true meditative state’.
– Humor and mirthful laughter is a whole brain experience with gamma wave band frequency similar to meditation; researchers called this frequency, being ‘in the zone’ (See post The Rise of Superman: Finding Your Flow, Your Ultimate Creative, Athletic Self and Meditation Not Better than Drugs or Exercise, Study Finds).
– Laughing could dramatically improve your health, and be as good for you as a deep state of meditation, the researchers have found.

untitled, photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn
untitled, photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn

What Buddhism Really Says About Reincarnation
– Buddhists don’t believe in a supreme being, argues scholar Jay Garfield, Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College Singapore.
– Like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Buddhism IS a religion, but not in the theistic sense.
Buddhism is a religion without theism, or no god.
– Buddhists are more akin to Pantheists (see podcast below).
– For Buddhism, as opposed to Hinduism, a better word than reincarnation is rebirth.
– Buddhism itself doesn’t necessarily require belief in reincarnation or rebirth, though actual Buddhists probably do believe.
– Buddhism encourages us to rethink egoism and to consider an orientation to the world characterized by care and joint responsibility. That can’t be a bad thing, says Garfield.

PODCAST

Esala Perahera (the festival of the Buddha's tooth relic), Kandy, Sri Lanka, photo by james_gordon_losangeles on Flickr
Esala Perahera (the festival of the Buddha’s tooth relic), Kandy, Sri Lanka, photo by james_gordon_losangeles on Flickr

Jesus, God, or Nothing? Interview with Raphael Lataster, Skepticality #230
– Interview with Rafael Lataster, author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God and PhD researcher of Religious Studies from University of Sydney.
– Huge bias in religious studies of focusing on god concepts such as theism, or only a focus on monotheist religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
– Other religions like Buddhism and Taoism are a form of pantheism. And, Hinduism is both pantheism and polytheism.
Pantheism is the concept that all is god, unity, one world, and respect for nature. Everything is said to be one, there is unity to all things, as found in New Age beliefs.
– Pantheism is about the Universe/Cosmos itself being ‘God’.
Theist scriptures promote a special race of “chosen” peoples.
– Pantheism, while not an organized religion, encourages people to be compassionate to all beings and the planet as a whole.
– The film ‘Avatar’ uses the idea of Pantheism as the basis for the religion in that movie.
– Many people are moving away from institutionalized theistic religions and moving toward personalized pantheist religions, such as New Age religions or atheism (see also Pantheism Unites/What is Atheism?).