Influenced by past lives

 

Thoughts, mental images, desires, and emotions arise from hidden recesses of the mind, influenced by physiological processes of our bodies and experiences in this lifetime and possibly past lifetimes.
– Alan Wallace, Mind in the Balance, p. 65

 Often, books are valuable as much for the questions they stimulate as what they explicitly say.

In this case, his mentioning of reincarnation stands out as an apparent superstition in an otherwise more scientific approach.

So the question for me is when and how do I do the same? In what ways are I caught up in superstition, wishful thinking, taking what someone else is saying (including tradition) as valid? How do I do it right now, in how I view what he wrote? In what other specific situations do I do the same?

I have certain assumptions about where he is coming from, and to the extent I take these assumptions as true, I am caught up in superstition and fuzzy thinking. Do I know that that’s what he is doing? Do I know he has not tested it out for himself? Do I know why he chose to mention reincarnation? No. I don’t know enough about him and also haven’t asked him.

In general, I find do this whenever I take a story as true. A belief is, by definition, superstition and fuzzy thinking.

…. past lifetimes.

As for reincarnation itself, in what way may it be most interesting?

For me, it is interesting in two ways. First, as a story that has an effect on people’s lives. Depending on culture and how it is received and interpreted by the individual, it can have a great variety of different effects, from stimulating practice and active compassion, to serving as an excuse for passivity, to creating a great deal of fear.

I also see that in some traditions, reincarnation seems to be part of a teaching strategy based on inducing fear, getting people to practice and live from compassion out of (a slight) fear. Today and in our culture, this may seem a poor strategy, but do I really know? At the very least, it may have been a useful strategy in some cultures.

The other way reincarnation is interesting is as subject of research. When we apply modern research methods to it, what do we find? Some studies seem to support the idea of reincarnation, but they are few and perhaps not so solid in their methods. It is, after all, a difficult topic to study, and there are always other ways to explain the findings.

Even if something does reincarnate, that something is still a “me”. Just as this human self, it is an object in awareness as anything else. It is at most a “me”. And it is something that can be identified with and taken as an “I” or not.

influenced by …. experiences in this lifetime and possibly past lifetimes.

How are our experiences influenced by past lifetimes?

Our actions and lives have physical and cultural consequences that are passed on to, and impacts, future generations. For instance, most of us today have an ecological footprint that is far larger than our fair earth share, and this is bound to have a significant impact on the lives of future generations of humans and other beings, and of ecosystems as a whole.

In some ways, it makes more sense to look at reincarnation and karma in this more concrete and tangible way. Our lives – as individuals, a culture, and a species – has consequences for future generations in innumerable ways.

Finally, when it comes to influences from past lifetimes, there is another way this is obviously valid. Everything in us is influenced and shaped by evolution and the vast number of ancestors back to the very first organism appearing 4-5 billion years ago. We don’t need to go to reincarnation. We can simply look at science and evolution.

So from a pragmatic point of view, it seems useful to channel an interest in reincarnation into (a) an exploration of the effects of such as story, especially when believed, (b) research on reincarnation, and (c) recognizing how we already know some of the many ways lives influence each other across generations, including through natural selection.

………………
………………
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  • influenced by past lives
    • in one very concrete way, our ancestors – and really all the way back to the beginning of the universe
      • evolutionary psychology
    • fuzzy unclear thinking
    • reincarnation
      • interesting in two ways
      • the effects of that story on our lives (will be quite different depending on how we understand it)
      • subject for research, see what’s there
    • also….
      • …..
    • how do i do the same?

…………….

 Often, books are not as interesting in what they say, as in the questions they stimulate.

In this case, why do the author talk about reincarnation in a book that supposedly takes a more scientific approach?

…………..

influenced by …. experiences in this lifetime and possibly past lifetimes.

Finally, when it comes to influences from past lifetimes, there is one way this is obviously valid. Everything in us is influenced and shaped by evolution and the vast number of ancestors back to the very first organism appearing 4-5 billion years ago. We don’t need to go to reincarnation. We can simply look at science and evolution.

…………

So the question for me is when and how do I do the same? In what ways are I caught up in superstition, wishful thinking, taking what someone else is saying (including tradition) as valid? How do I do it right now, in how I view what he wrote? In what other specific situations do I do the same?

I have certain assumptions about where he is coming from, and to the extent I take these assumptions as true, I am caught up in superstition and fuzzy thinking. Do I know that that’s what he is doing? Do I know he has not tested it out for himself? Do I know why he chose to mention reincarnation? No. I don’t know enough about him, and haven’t asked him.

In general, I find do this whenever I take a story as true. A belief is, by definition, superstition and fuzzy thinking.

………

So the question for me is what do I see in that sentence? What do I see in him? What assumptions do I have about that sentence, him, teachings, or reincarnation?

………

Our actions and lives have physical and cultural consequences that are passed on to, and impacts, future generations. The effects of our lives lives on in many different ways. We continue human life and cultural and family patterns through our children. Our life has innumerable larger and smaller ripple effects, most of which are unknown for us. But we can also know some. For instance, most of us today have an ecological footprint that is far larger than our fair earth share, and this is bound to have a significant impact on the lives of future generations of humans and other beings, and of ecosystems as a whole.

…..

An important facet of reincarnation is karma, which can be understood in a concrete way, as our ordinary sense of cause and effect. Anything happening has infinite causes and effects.

Our actions and lives have physical and cultural consequences that are passed on to, and impacts, future generations. The effects of our lives lives on in many different ways. We continue human life and cultural and family patterns through our children. Our life has innumerable larger and smaller ripple effects, most of which are unknown for us. But we can also know some. For instance, most of us today have an ecological footprint that is far larger than our fair earth share, and this is bound to have a significant impact on the lives of future generations of humans and other beings, and of ecosystems as a whole.

In some ways, it makes more sense to look at reincarnation and karma in this more concrete and tangible way. Our lives – as individuals, a culture, and a species – has consequences for future generations in innumerable ways.

influenced by …. experiences in this lifetime and possibly past lifetimes.

Finally, when it comes to influences from past lifetimes, there is one way this is obviously valid. Everything in us is influenced and shaped by evolution and the vast number of ancestors back to the very first organism appearing 4-5 billion years ago. We don’t need to go to reincarnation. We can simply look at science and evolution.

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2 thoughts to “Influenced by past lives”

  1. Excellent. Definitely our existence is influenced by our past lives. We are sent here again and again to complete our unfinished tasks. This is evident from my own case of reincarnation.

    In Bhagavad-Gita Lord SriKrishna says to Arjuna:
    “I taught this immortal Yoga to Vivasvan (sun-god), Vivasvan conveyed it to Manu(his son), and Manu imparted it to (his son) Iksvaku. Thus transmitted to succession from father to son, Arjuna, this Yoga remained known to the Rajarisis (royal sages). It has however long since disappeared from this earth. The same ancient Yoga has this day been imparted to you by Me, because you are My devotee and friend, and also because this is a supreme secret”.
    At this Arjuna said: You are of recent origin while the birth of Vivasvan dates back to remote antiquity. How, then, I am to believe that you taught this Yoga at the beginning of creation? Lord SriKrishna said: Arjuna, you and I have passed through many births. I remember them all, you do not remember.
    1. Radha Soami Faith was founded by His Holiness Param Purush Puran Dhani Huzur Soamiji Maharaj on the prayer of His Holiness Huzur Maharaj who later on became second Spiritual Head of Radha Soami Faith. The prime object of the Radha Soami Faith is the emancipation of all Jeevas (Souls) i.e. to take the entire force of consciousness to its original abode. There is a tradition of succession of Gurus or Spiritual Adepts in Radha Soami Faith. I am one of them as is evident from the following facts or ….
    “My most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state.
    HE told me, “Tum Sarkar Sahab Ho” (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab. Sarkar Sahab later on became Fourth Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith.
    Since I don’t have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of ‘Infinite’ (Agam Geet yeh gawan chahoon tumhri mauj nihara, mauj hoi to satguru soami karoon supanth vichara) but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.”

  2. Thank you. I am not taking sides about reincarnation, just pointing out that in either case, it can be helpful to (a) look at the practical consequences of having stories of reincarnation, and (b) explore it through research. I personally have experiences that could be explained through reincarnation, but the truth is, I don’t know.

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