by Dr M C Gupta
A factual and scientific discussion about the phenomenon of reincarnation.
|THE TRUTH ABOUT REINCARNATION
The purpose of this article is to present in an unbiased manner the available information on reincarnation. Such information will be presented under two heads:
A. Facts from a book published by Readers Digest
B. Work done in India by Dr. Satwant K Pasricha.
A. Readers Digest published in 1981 a book "Into the Unknown". It had a chapter titled
"Reincarnation". Salient points from this chapter are reproduced below:
1. Shanti Devi case was a famous, well documented case of rebirth. She was born in Delhi in 1929. At 3 years, she told a lot of details about her previous birth, in which she was married to Kedar Nath of Mathura, about 150 miles away. All these were verified by an unbiased group of observers, as well as by Kedar Nath himself.
2. Dr. Ian Stevenson, Director, Division of Parapsychology, Deptt of Psychiatry, University of Virginia, studied 1600 cases of past life claims. He has come to personally believe in rebirth. According to him, personality is determined by three dimensions: genes, environment and previous lives. He wrote a book:"Twenty cases suggestive of reincarnation". Some notable points from Stevenson’s work are as follows--
i. One of the cases cited by him is that of an American Indian who told his son and daughter in law: If there is some truth in this reincarnation business, let me tell you I will be born to you after my death. Lo and behold, he died in August 1949 and soon afterwards was born a boy to his son. This boy was this same person, as proven by many instances.
ii. Mrs. Dolores Jay, Greenbush, Ohio, was given hypnotherapy to relieve back pain. One night, her husband heard her speaking a strange, alien voice. This was later identified to be German. She began having visions of previous life on April 21, 1970. This life was in Germany in the previous century. Details were verified to be true.
iii. Stevenson found that interval between death and rebirth varies. According to him, it was 9 months in Turkey, 21 in Sri Lanka, 45 in India, 48 in Alaska Indians. [NOTE—More recent data from India, based upon data of Pasricha and others, reveals a shorter interval of 5-6 months to 2-3 years in general].
iv. A large number of reborn individuals had violent death in previous life. There was a high incidence of birth marks at the same sites as the previous life body had sustained bullet or weapon injuries.
v. The common pattern detected by Stevenson was that previous birth recall occurs at extremely young age [2-4 years], fades around 5-8 years, and is particularly intense in relaton to death in previous life.
3. Pythagoras and Plato believed in rebirth. Old Testament has a few and New Testament has many references to reincarnation. This is discussed by Reverend Leslie Weatherhead, Methodist minister of the City Temple, London during 1936-1960, in his book "the case of reincarnation". Examples are John 1: 19-28 and John 9.
4. A widely held view is that infant prodigies reflect the high level of skills that the person had achieved in previous life. Examples are Mozart [composed music at 4] and Blaise Pascal [he had outlined a new geometric system by the age 11]. [Brief information about a current Indian child prodigy in physics can be found at:
5. The identification of Dalai Lama is serious and convincing business, as evident from the rigorous tests involved. This line has continued uninterrupted since 1391. The Dalai Lama sometimes even leaves clues about his next birth. The 14th Dalai Lama has described his own identification process in his autobiography "My land and my people". The 13th died in 1933. He was reborn before 2 years had elapsed.
6. Morris Netherton, Ph D, personally believed in reincarnation, based upon his work, which he has detailed in his book "Past Lives Therapy". Dr. Edith Fiore, too, was convinced that past life memories under hypnosis were not mere fantasies.
7. Psychologist Helem Wambach of Walnut Creek, California, examined 1088 descriptions of previous lives to assess whether these were mere fantasies. That these were not so is shown by the following findings:
i. Details given by the subjects under hypnosis about past lives were found to be accurate;
ii. The 1088 past lives, when categorized in time, accurately represent estimates of world population at the relevant time. They also are equally divided between two sexes, irrespective of the sex of the respondents. They also accurately represent the socio-economic strata at the relevant periods.
60% of Wambach's subjects were able to comment upon the state between two births. 95% of these stated that they had chosen to be reborn. They said this was part of a process of gradual spiritual improvement. Many said though they had not actually looked forward to rebirth, they had been helped in choosing it by kindred spirits, friends and teachers. Some said that they had reentered the world with a feeling of compassion for those who had no knowledge of the other realm.
8. The phenomenon of De'ja vu may occur because a person has visited the place in a previous life. The famous example is that of Mr. And Mrs. Bralorne from Midwest USA
who had never been out of US earlier. Mr. Bralorne recognised each and every street and corner in Bombay and moved freely on his own there. He asked a policeman whether there was a large house at the foot of Malabar Hill with a banyan tree in front. The policeman said, yes, there was such a house, but it had been torn down 90 years earlier. He remembered this because his father was a servant in the house which belonged to the Bhan family. It was then that the Bralornes recalled that they had named their son Bhan Bralorne because "at the time, it seemed most fitting".
B. WORK DONE BY DR. SATWANT K PASRICHA, PROFESSOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH AND NEUROSCIENCES, BANGALORE, INDIA:
1. Indian Journal of Psychiatry  19:36-42 --- Three cases of reincarnation type in India.
2. Journal of Asian and African Studies  14:231-240 --- Reincarnation cases in Fatehabad: a systematic survey in North India.
3. European Journal of Parapsychology  3:381-408 --- a case of the reincarnation type in India: the case of Rakesh Gaur.
4. Journal of American Society for Psychical Research  77: 45-62 and 115-135 --- review and analysis of unsolved cases of reincarnation type.
5. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 
4:239-246 ---Indian cases of the reincarnation type two generations apart.
6. American Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 
84:227-233 ---Three conjectured features of the reincarnation type cases-responses of the persons unfamiliar with the cases.
7. Journal pf scientific exploration  12;259-296 ---Cases of the reincarnation type in northern India with birth marks and birth defects.
CHAPTERS IN BOOKS:
The phenomenon of reincarnation in children. In MS Bhatia and NK Dhar [Eds.]. A Comprehensive Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Delhi: CBS Publishers and distributors, 1996.
SK Pasricha: Claims of reincarnation: an empirical study of cases in India. 1990. Delhi: Harman Publishing House [Japanese translation by Toshio Kasahara, Prof of Psychology, published by Nikon Kyobun Sha, Tokyo, 1994].
A REVIEW OF THE ABOVE BOOK—It was published in Tmes of India dated 4 Aug 1991. The information contained in the review has been presented by me in the form of questions and answers as follows:
Q. When was a proper scientific study of paranormal phenomena like reincarnation, possession, telepathy etc. initiated?
A. In 1882, when the Society of Psychical Research was established in England.
Q. When did the individual case reports of reincarnation start appearing?
A. In 1960’s. It was only after Dr. Ian Stevenson, University of Virginia enteres this field that reincarnation started being studied scientifically.
Q. What is the reincarnation data in India?
A. Dr. Pasricha studied scientifically nearly 300 claims of reincarnation. These are given in her book “Claims of reincarnation: an empirical study of cases in India”, published in 1991by Harman Publishing House..She started as a sceptic, a nonbeliever in the phenomenon of reincarnation. She studied 45 cases during 1974-78 as part of her Ph D thesis, and went on to study 300 cases over next 13 years. In this scientific study, Dr. Pasricha tried to exclude the possibility of fantasy, fraud, genetic memory, cryptomensia, paramensia, possession and ESP etc. before considering the possibility of reincarnation. She was able to establish the validity of the claim of reincarnation in 86% cases, the evidence for reincarnation was conclusive. In the remaining 14%, cases, she was able to neither credit nor discredit the claim for want of further information.
Q. What are the common features that stand out in the cases of reincarnation?
A. Common features noted by Dr. Pasricha are as follows:
1. Recall of past life events starts around 3 years age.
2. Children speak of these past life events irrespective of the encouragement or discouragement from parents.
3. A majority of subjects recall the previous personality’s name and even insist on being called by that name. Sometimes they even worry about the previous personality’s wife or children.
4. Almost all recalled the means of death. If it was a violent death, they showed a fear of knives, blades, fire, bullets, water etc., depending on how they died.
5. Though memories of previous life were triggered by events or places or people important to the previous personality, they also occurred irrespective of meeting anyone from previous life.
Q. What is the interval between death and rebirth?
A. It is usually short, not more than one generation. In Dr. Pasricha’s series, it ranged from one day to 224 months, average being 14.5 months.
Q. What is the distance between the place of death or residence of the previous personality and the place of rebirth?
A. In Dr. Pasricha’s series, average was 10 km., the range being 0.2 to 565 km.
Q. At what age do children stop talking about previous life?
A. The range in Dr. Pasricha’s series was 42-132 months.
Q. In which societies is the phenomenon of reincarnation observed more frequently?
A. According to Dr. Stevenson’s and Dr. Pasricha’s data, it is observed more in those societies where a belief in this phenomenon exists. 1100 of Stevenson’s 2500 cases were from south East Asia, India, Thailand, Burma and Srilanka. Instances occur in other countries also. It appears that when cases of reincarnation occur in the societies where there is no tradition of reicarnation, people there do not know how to handle claims of rebirth.
Q. Are any differences observed within India?
A. Even though Dr. Pasricha works in South, the majority of her 300 cases belonged to North India, mostly Rajasthan, UP, MP and Punjab. Cases from South India were hardly a handful. Reason is not known.
Q. What factors determine whether a child recalls or not the events of past life?
A. Dr. Pasricha has no answer. For sake of argument, there is not even evidence that all of us have had a past life which could have been recalled. She has reason to believe that the following factors are conducive to recall of past life after rebirth:
a. Violent death in previous life
b. Unfulfilled wishes in previous life
c. Desire to be reborn.
M C Gupta
18 October 2008