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Meher Baba

The existence and the memory of past lives*

Part 1 of 2

Buddha Meher Baba (1894-1969)

Incidents of birth and death. THOSE who have immediate access to the supersensible truths concerning the life of the soul and its reincarnation know, through their unclouded perception, that socalled birth is only an incarnation of the individualised soul in the gross sphere. The unbroken continuity of the life of the reincarnating soul is punctuated by birth and death, both of which are comparable to gateways in the stream of life as it advances from one type of existence to another. Both are equally necessary in the greater life, of the soul, and the interval between death and birth is as necessary as the interval between birth and death.

Demands of intuition.As is true of those who consider death to be the termination of individual existence, so those who consider the birth of a body to be its beginning are also confronted with a conflict between their false assumptions and the claims of rationalised intuition. From the standpoint of individual justice, the uneven distribution of good and bad in relation to material happiness or prosperity  seems seriously to impugn the rationality and justification of the entire scheme of the universe. To see the virtuous at times suffering deeply and the vicious possessing the amenities of pleasure, creates insurmountable difficulties for anyone who prefers to look upon life as being meant to fulfill an eternal and divine purpose.

Tendency to accept deeper explanations. Unless there is some deeper explanation forthcoming, the human mind is riddled with agonising perplexities that, tend to embitter a man's general outlook on life and foster a callous cynicism which, in many ways, is even worse than the deepest personal sorrow which death may cause. But in spite of all appearances to the contrary, the human mind has in it an inborn tendency to try to restore to itself a deep and unshakable faith in the intrinsic sanity and value of life. Except where artificial resistances are created, it finds acceptable those explanations which are in conformity with this deeper law of the spirit.

Effect of changing brain. Those who have direct access to the truth of reincarnation are even fewer than those who have direct access to the truth of the immortality of the individual soul. The memories of all past lives are stored and preserved in the mind-body of the individual soul, but they are not accessible to the consciousness of ordinary persons because a veil is drawn over them. When the soul changes its physical body it gets a new brain, and its normal waking consciousness functions in close association with the brain processes. Under ordinary circumstances, only the memories of the present life can appear in consciousness because the new brain acts as a hindrance to the release of the memories of those experiences which had to be gathered through the medium of other brains in past lives.


Memory of past lives. In rare cases, in spite of the resistance offered by the brain, some memories of past lives leak into the present life in the form of dreams which are completely unexplainable in terms of the present life. A man may see persons in his dreams whom he has never seen in his present life. It often happens that the persons who appeared in the dreams were persons whom he had met in his past lives. But of course such dreams, when they are of the ordinary type, cannot be treated as a memory of past lives. They merely indicate that the imagination which worked in dreams was influenced by materials taken from the past lives of the man. The real memory of past lives is clear, steady and sure like the memory of the present life. When it comes to a man, he no longer has any doubt about his having existed in several lives along with many others. Just as he cannot doubt his own past life in the present incarnation, he cannot doubt his life in his past incarnations.

Release of memory of past lives. The number of persons who can remember their past lives is very small compared with the vast majority, who are so completely bound to the gross sphere of existence that they do not even suspect supersensible realities. The release of such memories is severely conditioned by the limitations of the brain, as long as consciousness is entangled with the physical body and its brain processes. When consciousness is emancipated from the limitations imposed by the brain, it can recover and re-establish the memories of past lives which are all stored in the mental body. This involves a degree of detachment and understanding which only the spiritually advanced persons can have. The memory of past lives can come with full clarity and certainty, even to those who are still crossing the inner planes but have not yet become spiritually perfect.

Loss of memory of past lives does not affect progress. The memory of past lives does not come back to a person, except in abnormal and rare cases, unless he is sufficiently advanced from the spiritual point of view. This provision made by the laws of life secures unhampered spiritual evolution of the individualised soul. At first view it might seem that loss of memory of previous lives is all a loss, but this is far from being so. For most purposes, knowledge about past lives is not at all necessary for the guidance of the onward course of spiritual evolution. Spiritual evolution consists in guiding life in the light of the highest values perceived through intuition, and not in allowing it to be determined by the past. In many cases, even the memory of the present life acts as an obstacle for certain adjustments demanded by the spiritual requirements of the changing situations of life. The problem of emancipation may, in a sense, be said to be a problem of securing freedom from the past which, in the case of those who are bound to the wheel of birth and death, inexorably shapes the present life.

Shielding from complications. Life would be infinitely more complicated if one who is not spiritually advanced were burdened by the conscious memory of numberless past lives. He would be dazed and unsettled by the diversity of settings in which persons would appear to him in the light of his memory. He is not called upon to face such confusion, however, because he is shielded from the resurrection of the memory of past lives. Things and persons come to him in a limited and definite context and setting, with the result that he finds it easy to determine his actions and responses in the light of what he knows from the present life. This does not mean that his actions and responses are entirely determined by what he knows from his present life. All that has happened in past lives also has its own unconscious but effective share in determining his actions and responses. But in spite of the actual influence of the past lives, the fact remains that since he is shielded from the resurrection of conscious memory, his consciousness is not subject to the confusion which would result if the conscious memory of past lives were to be among the data which he had to consider for the purpose of determining his actions and responses.

* Excerpt from Meher Baba. Discourses 6. Vol3. Reincarnation and Karma. Part III


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