Why can't we all remember our past lives?

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by The Undecided, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. Qi1

    Qi1 New Member

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    Greetings, 17th Angel, I am pretty sure that in my previous life I was either a fish of the tuna variety or some sort of farm animal such as a pig or cow. My only recollection, for which I have experienced some deja vous, was rolling around in the poop :eek:.
     
  2. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    Rolling around in poop? I am sure the Tuna doesn't do that... So perhaps it was a farm animal? But, you say deja vu? You've rolled around in poop in human form? How'd that work out for you? Did you learn from your "mistakes" as a farm animal?

    Also, Why did you go from farm animal to human animal? Is that a promotion/demotion? What lessons are you meant to adapt and find useful now in human form?
     
  3. Jenn

    Jenn New Member

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    Not sure how this will sound to some of you, but in my own experience, it doesn't entirely matter whether or not "past life memories" are "real" or not. When we imagine things, we are still engaging with them at a psychological, even spiritual level ... we experience them to an extent, even if only in our mind's and heart's eye ... they become "real" to us, and their "reality" is relative.

    I have found that not approaching past life memories quite so literally can be very helpful, particularly because I myself have been bombarded, especially when travelling and meeting new people, with things that *could* be labeled by some as "past life memories". Whether they are or not doesn't really matter to me though! These are experiences that are deeply felt in my core being, on many levels. Their relevance is a bit like dreams -- there is a symbolic, archetypal revelation going on -- they are indeed saying something. I feel I was someone's sister in a past life -- doesn't mean I actually was. Maybe I was. Or maybe that is just a way of my mind expressing in symbolic form its intense sense of companionship with another person. *shrug*

    There is always value to things like this -- whether they are stories, mythology, so-called past life memories, etc. So "past life memories" can indeed be useful, as scenarios possibly produced by our unconscious to help us work through present issues or draw to light things that need our attention ... much like dreams can do.

    If you were to ask me though whether or not I believe in past lives, I think I would refrain to answer like the Buddha did when asked point-blank about whether there is a self or not.

    I like the idea of past lives ... it explains a lot of some extremely personal and otherwise inexpressable connections and feelings I have ... and it also explains some very weird things that have happened to me, knowledge that I don't know where the heck it's come from. One of my best friends speaks fluent Arabic. He NEVER learned it. He was speaking it fluently at the age of 9 and his parents thought he was crazy. He could speak intelligently and in-depth with people from Egypt in particular, who found it very befuddling that this little white British boy was speaking a very archaic but still understandable form of their language. How does one explain that!? How can I go into a town I've never been in before and know exactly where all the old historic buildings are, as if I've lived there all my life but in another time?

    Past lives is not the only answer though. Perhaps I triggered some kind of collective memory that is connected to a particular place in the ether ... or perhaps it is cellular, genetic memory passed on from my ancestors (another thought which fascinates me) ... and one of my favourite ideas is akin to Brian's -- maybe I am just one life out of many parallel lives, and sometimes the barriers between become more permeable. I sometimes get the sense of being an extension of the universe. Sometimes I feel a total inexplicable and overwhelming grief out of nowhere that has nothing to do with my actual life ... it feels like the universe has just spontaneously used my consciousness as an outlet for its own feelings. Perhaps memories are the same .... who knows!

    For now, we don't know. Until we know one way or the other though, it would be unwise to make any judgments. We have to learn to be OK with the ambiguity and mystery of it all without losing our desire to learn more and be open to more.
     
  4. earl

    earl ?

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    Interesting notions, Jenn. Perhaps we are just individualized nodes of consciousness and part of the One Mind with memory stored throughout the Mind holographically.:) Fun to speculate but as you said, who knows? Maybe when we are in ordinary states of consciousness, we view time linearly, thinking of past flowig into present. Perhaps in an altered state time, past, present, and future, is seen as one unitary, simultaneous whole. Read an interesting book by Brian Weiss, MD, who specialized in past life work, once on the notion of "progressing" into alternative future lives, lines of probability branchig out from the present moment. earl
     
  5. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Jenn, you said,

    "One of my best friends speaks fluent Arabic. He NEVER learned it. He was speaking it fluently at the age of 9 and his parents thought he was crazy."

    --> I always say, "I know what he was doing in his last lifetime!" The same is true of me. I speak very good Japanese, but there is absolutely no explanation for it. I like these examples of people having skills that can only be explained by reincarnation.

    More "proof" of reincarnation. The title of this article is He paints like an old master. He does because he is an old master. The boy is only seven years old!!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/29/boy-paints-like-old-master

    His pictures cost upwards of £900, there are 680 people on a waiting list to buy them, and his second exhibition sold out in 14 minutes. Patrick Barkham meets the gifted artist Kieron Williamson, aged seven

    Kieron Williamson kneels on the wooden bench in his small kitchen, takes a pastel from the box by his side and rubs it on to a piece of paper.

    "Have you got a picture in your head of what you're going to do?" asks his mother, Michelle.

    "Yep," Kieron nods. "A snow scene."

    Because it is winter at the moment, I ask.

    "Yep."

    Do you know how you want it to come out?

    "Yep."

    And does it come out how you want it to?

    "Sometimes it does."

    Like many great artists, small boys are not often renowned for their loquaciousness. While Kieron Williamson is a very normal seven-year-old who uses his words sparingly, what slowly emerges on the small rectangle of paper in his kitchen is extraordinarily eloquent.

    This month, Kieron's second exhibition in a gallery in his home town of Holt, Norfolk, sold out in 14 minutes. The sale of 16 new paintings swelled his bank account by £18,200. There are now 680 people on a waiting list for a Kieron original. Art lovers have driven from London to buy his work. Agents buzz around the town. People offer to buy his schoolbooks. The starting price for a simple pastel picture like the one Kieron is sketching? £900.

    Kieron lives with his dad Keith, a former electrician, his mum, who is training to be a nutritionist, and Billie-Jo, his little sister, in a small flat overlooking a petrol station. When I arrive on a Saturday afternoon, Kieron and Keith are out. When Kieron returns in football socks and shorts, I assume he has been playing football. But no, he has been replenishing his stock of pastels in Holt, a chichi little place where even the chip shop has grainy portraits for sale on its walls.

    Artist Kieron Williamson, age seven, painting at home in Holt, Norfolk. Photograph: Graham Turner From Jan Lievens to Millais, there have been plenty of precocious geniuses in the art world. Excitable press coverage has compared Kieron to Picasso, who painted his first canvas, The Picador, aged eight.

    "We don't know who Picasso is really," says Keith.

    "I know who Picasso is," interrupts Kieron. "I don't want to become Picasso."

    Who would he like to become? "Monet or Edward Seago," he says.

    These days, however, we are often suspicious of child prodigies. We wonder if it is all their own work, or whether their pushy parents have hot-housed them. People who don't know the Williamsons might think Kieron is being cleverly marketed, particularly when they hear that Keith is now an art dealer.

    The truth is far more innocent. Two years ago, a serious accident had forced Keith to stop work and turn his hobby – collecting art – into an occupation. The accident also stopped Keith racing around outside with his son. Confined to a flat with no garden, surrounded by paintings and, like any small boy, probably influenced by his dad, Kieron decided to take up drawing. Now, father and son are learning about art together.

    Kieron is rubbing yellows and greys together for his sky. "There's some trees going straight across and then there's a lake through the centre," he explains. Is this picture something you have seen or is it in your imagination? "I saw it on the computer and every time I do the picture it changes." he says, handling his pastels expertly.

    Keith ducks into the kitchen and explains that Kieron finds pictures he likes on the internet. Rather than an exact copy, however, he creates his own version. This winter scene is imagined from an image of the Norfolk Broads in summer.

    Figures at Holkham by Kieron Williamson At first, Kieron's art was pretty much like any other five-year-old's. But he quickly progressed and was soon asking questions that his parents couldn't answer. "Kieron wanted to know the technicalities of art and how to put a painting together," says Michelle. Hearing of Kieron's promise, one local artist, Carol Ann Pennington, offered him some tips. Since then, he has had lessons with other Norfolk-based painters, including Brian Ryder and his favourite, Tony Garner.

    Garner, a professional artist, has taught more than 1,000 adults over the last few decades and Kieron, he says, is head and shoulders above everyone. "He doesn't say very much, he doesn't ask very much, he just looks. He's a very visual learner. If I did a picture with most students, they will copy it but Kieron is different. He will copy it and then he will Kieronise it," he says. "It might be a bit naive at the moment but there's a lovely freshness about what he does. The confidence that this little chap has got – he just doesn't see any danger."

    Garner says his parents have been brilliant at shielding Kieron from the business side and the pressure this invariably brings. Keith and Michelle are extremely proud, and protective, and perhaps slightly in awe of their son. They insist that Kieron only paints when he wants to.

    "We judge ourselves every day, wondering whether we are making the right choices," says Michelle. "Kieron is such a strong character you wouldn't get him to do anything he didn't want to do anyway. It's a hobby. Some could argue he's got such a talent, why aren't we doing more for him in terms of touring galleries every weekend. We are a family and we've got Billie-Jo to consider; you've got to strike a balance."

    Boat at half way house by Kieron Williamson With all the people wanting paintings, I ask Kieron if he feels he has to do them. He says no.

    So you only paint when you want to? "Yep."

    Do you have days when you feel you don't want to paint?

    "Yep."

    So you only do it when you're in the mood?

    "Yep."

    How many paintings or drawings do you do each week? One or two? "About six."

    Is he a perfectionist? "You've got a bit of an artist's temperament, haven't you?" says Michelle, softly, as Kieron continues wielding his pastels. "You get really frustrated if it doesn't work out. You punched a hole in the canvas once, didn't you?"

    That was rare. Sometimes, however, Kieron will produce "what we classify as a bag of trosh," says Michelle. "He's just got to go through the motions. It's almost as if it's a release. It's difficult to explain – it's the process that he enjoys, because there are days when he is not really focused on his work but he just enjoys doing it."

    Sometimes, when they have taken Kieron out on painting trips in the countryside, the little boy has had other ideas: he has gone off and played in the mud or a stream. He is still allowed to be seven years old.

    What do his school friends think? Are they impressed? "Yep." A few ­ moments later, Kieron pauses. "I am also top of the class in maths, English, geography and science," he says carefully, rubbing the sky in his picture.

    Kieron explains he is sticking to landscapes for now but plans to paint a portrait of his 98-year-old nan when she turns 100. What does he think about people spending so much money on his paintings? "Really good." Would he like to be a professional painter? "Yep." So he doesn't want to be a footballer when he is older? "I want to be a footballer and a painter."

    Kieron enjoys playing football and, like his dad, supports Leeds United ("I haven't ever pushed him into it," says Keith quickly). What other things does Kieron like doing? "You played on the Xbox but then you got bored of it didn't you?" says Keith.

    "You said I could have it out when Christmas comes," says Kieron.

    "You can have it out in the holidays," promises Michelle. "He's a bit all-or-nothing with whatever he does, like the artwork. You have to pull the reins in a bit because otherwise he'd be up all night."

    What would his parents say if Kieron turned around and told them he was not going to paint any more? "Leave him to it. As long as he's happy. At the end of the day, he's at his happiest painting," says Keith. "It's entirely his choice," says Michelle. "We don't know what's around the corner. Kieron might decide to put his boxes away and football might take over and that would be entirely his choice. We're feeling slightly under pressure at the moment because there is such a waiting list of people wanting Kieron's work, but I'm inclined to tell them to wait, really."

    I doubt many artists could paint or draw while answering questions and being photographed but Kieron carries on. When he finishes, we lean over to look. "Not bad. That's nice," says Keith, who can't watch Kieron at work; I wonder if it is because he is worried about his son making a mistake but Keith says he just prefers to see the finished article.

    "Is it as good as the one I did this morning or better?" asks Kieron.

    "What do you think?" replies Keith. "It's got a nice glow on it, hasn't it?"

    Kieron nods.

    I would love one of his pictures but, I tell Kieron, he is already too expensive for me. "I can price one down for you," he says, as quick as a flash.

    No, no, I couldn't, I say, worried I would be exploiting a little boy who is eager to please. I thank him for his time and hand him my business card. And Kieron trots into his bedroom, comes out with his business card and says thank you back.
     
  6. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    You never studied Japanese? Never lived in Japan? Never lived in an environment where Japanese was spoken? Can you write Japanese as well as you speak?
     
  7. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    CZ,

    I did all of the things you have mentioned. But even though I did all of those things, my progress has been extraordinary, and Japanese people are always surprised by how good my Japanese is. I know westerners who have lived in Japan for 20 years and cannot speak Japanese for beans.
     
  8. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Very much agree, Jenn - I personally find one of the easiest pitfalls in spiritual development is to take too much literally - our brains are wired to find patterns, our biases mean we may be more alert to some information to the detriment of other clues, and our minds are playing with concepts we little understand.

    In that regard, I find it important to allow for uncertainty, because more often than not, at some later point there is an insight or realisation that suggest the picture was incompletely looked at or misunderstood - but with minds closed, that error would continue.

    A personal mantra remains "Accept everything, believe nothing", and it comes in handy. :)
     
  9. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Just wanted to clear that up.

    It goes along with what I was saying earlier about one life imparting its trajectory into the next life. So the Japanese language came more naturally to you, just as Buddhism seemed a natural fit for me. Could this be due to our past lives? Perhaps.

    But I do want to reiterate the lesson that the Buddha taught when he talked about seeing his past lives. He didn't say, "In my past life I lived on a tropical island and that explains my love for coconuts and my ability to row a canoe." He talked about the process very broadly.

    The point isn't what specific talent or trait you inherited from a past life. The point is that the process of birth and rebirth, integration and disintegration is a natural and continuous process. Knowing this helps to break down the attachment to self.

    It seems to me that people who focus on past lives are doing just the opposite. They aren't breaking down the attachment to self, they are expanding that attachment to include these past lives.


    To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. ~Dōgen Zenji


    It's a fine line between studying and clinging or obsessing. I try to keep in mind that forgetting the self is a key step on the path.
     
  10. Jenn

    Jenn New Member

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    A very good mantra to have too. Even if you are actually right about one interpretation there are always new layers that transcend or include what is truth from one pont or perspective. That's why people who talk about other states of consciousness as 'more real' are missing the point that it is *all* real and none can be seen as more important than the other because the parts make up the whole ... onion skins! It's like a child's understanding of science versus the avg adult versus Einstein.
     
  11. Jenn

    Jenn New Member

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    most definitely agree with you .... There are definitely folk who only seem to remember being lords or queens or shamans or whatever else they choose. Now if used correctly, these could be viewed as images of the soul, things that convey the dignity, regalness and power of the soul but this so easily gets confused with the present personality and ego. They may very well be Picasso or Jane Austen reincarnated but more often than not I suggest that is the archetype or numinous powers of the soul dreamtime breaking forth ....

    The problem is when as you said people use these sorts of things to trap themselves on old patterns or in self identification and rigidity. None of these make the path to freedom and soulfulness any easier.

    The key is not to take any of it too seriously even if it is true past life memories. Zen masters have that right ... Seriousness can keep you from looking at things from a higher perspective. We aren't done living our life or lives so none of us can know the full implications or repercussions of what we recall or intuit.

    I certainly don't really understand what I remember. I just know that it is meaningful and is something I observe as sensation moreso than a conscious thought. I avoid placing labels or judgments on those intuitive feelings because often thought is not adaquete enough anyway.

    This is where a regular practice like meditation becomes so relevant ... learning to let go of your labels and judgments and making the Self more permeable and porous to the universe.
     
  12. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Yes...archetypes! :)

    I've met people who claimed to have been the Queen Cleopatra of Mark Anthony fame. Perhaps she represents a very strong archetypal strong exotic woman.

    From a historical perspective, though, there were dozens of Queen Cleopatra's in Egypt during the Greek period, difference being most were very unglamorous and rarely mentioned.

    Would it really be so unwelcome to be a somewhat plain and unknown Queen Cleopatra in an earlier life, or must it be the single romantic figure from history?
     
  13. Jenn

    Jenn New Member

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    None of the past lives I might remember are glamorous. Some are boring and others pretty horrible and like opening up psychic wounds. But that is where archetypal psychology comes useful.
     
  14. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    I'm pretty sure I was the whale that swallowed Jonah. My back always itches, my teeth fit too tightly together, and I like long showers.
     
  15. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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  16. earl

    earl ?

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    Jenn, I see you're interested in Jungian thought. Perhaps you're familiar with the Jungian analyst, Roger Woolger, whose first published book over 20 years ago was about past lives-"Other Lives, Other Selves." He's continued to work with past lives with his more recent work encompassing Tibetan Buddhism and shamanism. Here's a recent interview with the fellow:
    Netscape Search earl
     
  17. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    I find it interesting how people make this a joke thing, and take digs and crack witty comments... Yet, are willing to believe in things that could be seen just as unbelievable.......

    Yet we are told to have tolerance and respect here? Yet There is a big steaming pile... Smells like hypocrisy. No one else smell that??

    Maybe I've just had too much cough syrup.... *shrugs*
     
  18. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Cough syrup? Naw, man, I can tell you've been smoking those goofers again....
     
  19. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    Probably those better able to discuss past lives in depth also appreciate the humor inherent in cross species inheritance. Claiming to be a part of Jonah's story is valid. In fact any one of us might have been the whale. Whales have big mouths, are very deep, and live in forums.
     
  20. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    big fish...no whale...big fish...of course one interpretation has it as the name of a boat that picked him up...
     

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