Sunday Talk on Reincarnation

I visited the Lake Shrine Temple of Self-Realization Fellowship this past Sunday.  The minister spoke on reincarnation. He referenced Dr. Ian Stevenson, author of the book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. “Suggestive” only because reincarnation cannot (yet!) be proven scientifically, i.e. via modern physical science.

Those who want to prove for themselves the scientific truth of the doctrine of reincarnation should first prove the principle of continuity of consciousness after death by learning the art of consciously separating the soul from the body…The Christian mystic St. Paul understood and demonstrated this mastery of life and death; he declared: “…I die daily” {I Corinthians 15:31}  — Paramahansa Yogananda,  Man’s Eternal Quest (p. 215)

One story in particular was of Shanti Devi.  At age 4, she began speaking to her parents of a husband and child. She would give details of her husband’s appearance, as well as the town in which they lived. This continued for years. Finally, her family and friends of the family sought to either prove or disprove Shanti’s stories by testing her. At one point, the man she spoke of was brought to her, yet she was told he was someone else, in attempt to trick her. She recognized him as her husband nonetheless. Later, she even returned to her former village for a visit. She, still a child, knew many personal details that only the man’s wife would have known. Eventually, she was reunited with the child.  She was age 9, and her son was 10 at the time. Turns out, Shanti Devi was named “Lugda” in her past incarnation where she had this husband and son. She died nine days after childbirth and apparently reincarnated (as Shanti) a little over a year later. 

Brother weaved this compelling story together much more elegantly and interestingly! He then pointed out that when we hear of those who have strong recollections of their past life, we may feel as though they have special knowledge or are lucky in some way. For me, I’m inclined to think that one is more highly evolved spiritually if they have such recollections. Stevenson concluded that it is truly best to forget past lives, because in recalling them, it brings on deep emotional disturbances and conflict of loyalty. For example, in this case, dear Shanti Devi had to be torn from her beloved husband and son of the past and raised by her “new” parents in her current incarnation as Shanti.  She was no longer Lugda, the woman who died after childbirth.

Here is a more recent case:

This young boy talked about his past life too, but unlike Shanti, once he was able to see evidence that validated his memories and prove it to current his family, he lost interest and simply moved on.

I would plant one thought in your mind:  Without God-realization, you wouldn’t care to know about your past lives, lest you learn of the terrible happenings that have taken place in those previous incarnations. Think of the troubles and sorrows you have had in this life, and then think of your many past incarnations. — Paramahansa Yogananda, The Divine Romance (p. 271)

My takeaways from the talk were a) Remembrances of past lives are only good if used in the positive, such as learning a lesson so you don’t have to come back to repeat it. b) Having the “special knowledge” of one’s own reincarnations can actually be a burden. c) Consider it a blessing that you don’t remember much or any of your past lives! Brother quoted Guruji as saying, One life is sufficient!

The most important thing to know about reincarnation is that this life is a new opportunity given by God to destroy the evil and cultivate the good that you have brought from past lives. — Paramahansa Yogananda, The Divine Romance (p. 274)

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