Reincarnation and Past-Life-Regression are not modern concepts. People have believed in reincarnation since ancient times. Since prehistoric times, there have been numerous techniques used to explore past lives. Every religion has an ‘inner teaching’, and within that inner teaching, reincarnation and its evolutionary implications have been accepted as the universal truth. There is sufficient evidence to show that the Hindus, Ancient Celts, the Egyptians, the Tibetans, and the Hebrew Cabalists etc. used past-life remembrance.
Sri Krishna said in ‘The Bhagawad Gita’, “As a man, casting off worn-out garments, takes new ones, so the dweller in the body, casting off worn-out bodies, enters into others that are new”. He has also said “The misdeeds of our past lives torment us in the form of illnesses or ailments”. From this we understand how all our ailments have their root cause in past-life actions. This is the fundamental principle on which the entire concept of Past-Life-Regression is based. ‘Past-Life-Regression’ is based on the universal law of cause and effect, which is also known as the Law of Karma. A person’s past actions affect his or her present conditions. The effect could be on physical health, emotional condition, mental state or spiritual well-being. A few examples of root causes are: unfulfilled desires, thoughts, feelings, emotions, vows, promises, decisions, evasions or traumatic experiences. The root causes are invariably in the past.
The ancient Indian sage Patanjali Maharshi, has done extensive work on Past-Life-Regression. In his yoga sutras Patanjali Maharishi called this process of past-life-regression as ‘Prati-Prasav’. It is the process of reabsorbing back to the cause. This means bringing effect back to the cause or the process of involution. When a child is born it is Prasav. Prati-Prasav means you are born again in the memory; you go back to the very birth, the trauma when you were born, and you live it again. If there is something, some trouble, some problem, then we go back to the original source from where it started. Because we can go on trying to solve the problem, but unless we go to the roots it cannot be solved. Effects cannot be solved unless they are forced back to the cause. For example, if there is an unwanted weed and we go on cutting the branches and the leaves in an attempt to remove the weed, we find that more and more branches and leaves take the place of the ones we cut off. To remove the weed once and for all, we have to actually remove the weed from the roots.
Buddha is said to have recounted thousands of his past-lives, of which around 550 have been narrated in the ‘Jataka’ Tales. Buddha asked his disciples to explore their own past lives to gain a complete understanding of the cycle of birth and death. According to the teachings of Buddha, one attains ‘Nirvana’ or Salvation when one becomes free from the cycle of birth and death.
Mahavira called ‘Remembering past-lives’ as ‘Jati-Smaran’. Remembering of past lives is an integral part of ancient Jain Practices. Jain teachings call the attaining of freedom from rebirth as ‘Kaivalya’.
Early Tibetan history contains a wealth of literature on the subject of reincarnation and afterlife states. One of the most important sources of ancient Tibetan wisdom about reincarnation and the afterlife states is the ‘Tibetan Book of The Dead’. This book was read to those who were dying when their souls were about to vacate their bodies. Also read during funeral ceremonies, the wisdom imparted was supposed to prepare the dying person to make the transition from life to the after life state in a smooth manner. It also taught the near and dear of the deceased person that they should not hold back the dying person by mourning, but that they should graciously send them on their journey with positive thoughts and emotions. Compiled in the eighth century A.D., this book is a masterpiece that contains the wisdom gathered over a period spanning many centuries from different Tibetan Masters.
A lot of cases of Near Death Experiences are reported even in modern times where people are found to return to life after being pronounced dead. These experiences are very similar to early stages of death as described by the Tibetan sages. As the spirits move toward a realm of light, they slough off emotional attachments to their earlier earthly existence. In the process, they may face spiritual beings who guide them, and who present them with a kind of mirror reflecting their life and actions. Filled at last with peace and contentment, the deceased prepare either to abandon the world altogether or to reenter the cycle of birth and death with higher awareness of the illusory nature of life.
Many Christian mystics have stated that after death, the soul separates from the body and leaves. There are instances of people with Christian upbringing who had ‘near death experiences’. They tell us that their spirits entered a ‘realm of light’ where they were received by ‘beings of light’. They were then shown a complete review (somewhat like a movie except that it took no time) of their all the events of their life and their actions were weighed. This description is very similar to the description given by the Tibetans.
Ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation. They believed that it took 3000 years to complete all lives that one had to live. All this goes to prove that the ancient Egyptians strongly believed in life after death and reincarnation.
Reincarnation was not an unknown concept to the ancient Greeks. Noted Greek philosophers like Pythagoras and Plato believed in reincarnation and they have also explained about it in their teachings. Pythagoras is believed to have remembered and described many of his past lives. Some of the lives that he recounted were as: a Trojan warrior, a prophet, a peasant, a prostitute, and a shopkeeper.
Though reincarnation has been studied scientifically only during recent times, the possibility that we live many lives has been accepted on faith since ancient times. If one studies the ancient indigenous cultures of Africa, Asia, North America, South America and Australia, one would find ample evidence that reincarnation was one of their core beliefs. It can be seen that evidence of the belief in reincarnation can be found in people of diverse cultures, from different parts of the world and even people from vastly different time periods (modern, medieval, ancient, prehistoric etc.).