I’m not Buddhist, but I do enjoy hearing what Buddhists believe, especially about meditation because my own meditation was based on what the Buddha did. My experiences have been very similar.
There are a few major areas I talk about on this website: meditation; mindfulness; Jhana; Abhinna (Abijna, Abhinnanana).
The supposed ability to recall past lives falls under the ‘Abhinna’ topic. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here in the past, but recently my sister brought it up on social media and asked what I thought. Up until this point, I have to say that I’ve been skeptical of reincarnation and the ability of someone to recall past lives. In the same way, I was skeptical about many things in my life that I haven’t experienced directly, I’m skeptical about anything involving past life regression.
I would like to believe in it. Sounds great to me. I’d love to know there was something else after this life, and that there was another chance to go around again. Though I think we don’t have any idea what sort of lives we could be living in the future. That’s scary. That might be scarier than just having this one life be the end – and that’s it. No more Vern. Not sure.
Anyway, let me talk about monks who claim to have gone back and recalled their past lives. Just today I watched a video of a monk who spoke about it. Will put at the bottom of this page. He told of the process that monks use to go back and recall past lives. He obviously knows a lot about the topic from the Buddhist perspective. There are many Thai monks that have said they can recall their past lives. His explanation seemed pretty logical until one small thing. Time. Well, there are other things, but I’ll get to them in a minute.
This monk said a monk who remembers his past lives starts by going backward in time from right now – to what he just did, what he did before that, and so on. All the way back to the womb. Then further back into past lives. There are accounts of monks sitting down to meditate, and then coming back out of it, they declare they’ve just seen all their past lives, tens or hundreds of thousands of them.
Here’s the thing about time – Homo sapien man hasn’t been around on the planet for more than about 200,000 years. The average lifespan of a human being over this time might have been 30 years on average. If so, that means there were 6,666.6 generations.
If someone is claiming to have recalled 100,000 or more lives, that seems pretty ridiculous in the face of time. We haven’t been around that long. Unless these monks are talking about life as monkeys and fish and one-celled organisms in the primordial ooze, then it just doesn’t make sense. If the average lifespan of the said monk was just 2 years old over all that time, then it could make sense. But, that doesn’t make sense, right?
The other thing about time. It takes time to recall a past life. If a monk is going back day by day, back to the time he was born, let’s see, for me that would be, at 49 years old now – 17,885 days back to the day I was born. To recall each day takes some amount of time. Let’s say for sake of ridiculousness, it takes a monk only 5 seconds to recall what he did for an entire day. That works out to 62 days straight – 24 hours a day – to recollect over the course of 5 seconds for each day – everything that happened during each day of my life.
Thing is, monks aren’t sitting for 62 days straight and then claiming to have seen all their past lives, or even just to recall their present-day lives. They sit for a couple hours, a day or so straight, and they are telling us they’ve just recalled their 147,845 past lives.
I’m skeptical. No, I’m more than skeptical. So, what could be the discrepancy here? Maybe, and I’m betting this would be the answer I’d get – “The minds of monks while recalling past lives work very fast. They’re able to recall whole days or years of existence in split seconds. They are not bound by time.” Uhm, yeah. Sure they’re not.
I have an open mind. My mind has literally been blown wide open as a result of my own meditation experiences of strange experiences, then jhana, and then some of the abhinnas. Even knowing without any question or doubt that at least a couple of the abhinnas are true, I cannot make the leap and say that recalling past lives has any validity at all.
Here’s another reason why: I have never seen proof of any sort. Meaning, if a monk could recall his past lives, then the one just before his present one should be easily recallable. He should be able to tell in-depth, detailed things about that life – right?
Is anyone doing this? Is any monk going back to their previous life and finding some morsel that couldn’t be known, like – the first time I had sex in this previous life was with a girl named Sarah Connor? Then, track Sarah Connor down and explain to her the circumstances of their union? I don’t see this happening. Nothing of the sort.
Now, there are kids on Youtube doing it – saying they remember this person or that as their murderer in a previous life. I haven’t looked closely at those, but I’m sure with a decent vetting, one could uncover lots of gaps in the story. I’m skeptical of that too. Here’s yet another reason I don’t believe in reincarnation and past lives recall: I haven’t seen any scientific experiment in which monks recalled some of their past lives, say, 100 of them, and then were latest tested again about the details of those past lives – and they could remember them without error. That would at least be somewhat convincing. I haven’t ever heard of a study like that.
I will spend some time researching that today and see what I come up with. If nothing, I won’t change this page. If I find something I’ll add it below. So, the abhinnas are true at least in part. From my own point of view, and I cannot expect you to believe it because I told you, or because I experienced some abhinnas that made me a believer.
However, it’s a giant leap to make a statement about all the abhinnas being true because I haven’t experienced all of them. If I ever experience a past-life recall, I’ll be sure to let you know. If I ever find some good data in an amazing experiment, I’ll be sure to let you know. Won’t you do the same for me? Thanks!