Remembering Past Lives

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Remembering Past Lives

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jan 18, 2009 5:34 pm

I dont know if this is the right place to post this so please move it if it isnt.

Several suttas state that on the night of his enlightenment the buddha recalled past lives and you read about disciples doing this as well.

My question is this, how is this recall done as the buddha never goes into any real detail reguarding it. Also does remembering past lives mean simply remembering past "I" moments or does it mean lives before physical birth as well?
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby piotr » Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:22 pm

Hi Clw,

My question is this, how is this recall done as the buddha never goes into any real detail reguarding it. Also does remembering past lives mean simply remembering past "I" moments or does it mean lives before physical birth as well?


Stock formula from the suttas is as follows:

    If he wants, he recollects his manifold past lives (lit: previous homes), i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus he remembers his manifold past lives in their modes and details. — Pansadhovaka-sutta, AN 3.100

So it's quite literal recollection, since text talks about "eons of cosmic contraction" and so on. Because eon (kappa) is very long (see SN 15.5 for a simile of the mountain) it must refer to something more than one life.

But since recollection of past lives is, in fact, recollection of past clinging-aggregates, one can say that this basicly refers to the past phenomena which were affected by the notion of "I":

    Monks, any priests or contemplatives who recollect their manifold past lives all recollect the five clinging-aggregates, or one among them. — Khajjanīya-sutta, SN 22.79

One should only remember that time scale is not limited to single existence.
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:48 pm

Thank you for your post :namaste:

Do you know of any suttas or recent works that deal with how this is acctualy done. I know it involves a deep state of meditation but as of yet i havent read any kind of detailed anaylsis of it

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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby piotr » Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:30 pm

Hi Craig,

in the suttas ability to recollect previous lives is called one of the spiritual powers (iddhī), which one may obtain when four bases for spiritual powers (iddhipāda) are developed, i.e. concentration founded on desire, persistance, intent, & discrimination. There is Iddhipāda-saṃyutta in the Saṃyutta-nikāya devoted to this subject. You may find also interesting one subchapater from Wings to Awakening by bhante Ṭhānissaro.
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:02 pm

clw_uk wrote:Do you know of any suttas or recent works that deal with how this is acctualy done. I know it involves a deep state of meditation but as of yet i havent read any kind of detailed anaylsis of it

There is a lot of detail on development of various powers in the Visuddhimagga. You'll have to obtain a hard copy. Summarised also in contemporary works, but I don't know of a source offhand. Development of such powers is said to require mastery of Jhana - being able to work through the different levels in different orders, with different objects and so on.

See: http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=PcgK ... ana&pgis=1
http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=qtUK ... ana&pgis=1

However, I don't think that one should be practising with the idea of gaining such powers...

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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:05 pm

Im not setting out to devote my practice to it I was just interested in it as I have never seen it gone into much detail in the suttas :smile: . I do have a copy of the Visuddhimagga which i got from amazon, havent really read it in full kinda just look back in reference, will look up past lives in it now though thank you.



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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:01 pm

some people regress while meditating right bach through the years, into the womb and beyond to the previous life. there are many hypnotherapist who do past life regression
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:53 pm

clw_uk wrote:I was just interested in it as I have never seen it gone into much detail in the suttas

The suttas don't go into detail for any meditation techniques.
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby Heavenstorm » Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:36 am

mikenz66 wrote:Development of such powers is said to require mastery of Jhana - being able to work through the different levels in different orders, with different objects and so on.


To be more exact, its the Fourth Jhana and above (Formless Jhanas), thats where one obtains the super knowledges and ability powers, the first Jhana just induces a state of deep calm, I don't recall reading that it allows one to obtain certain abilities. Even Arahants who only attain the first Jhana, was said in suttas to be very much powerless, unable to recall past lives and was not different from ordinary person outwardly except in terms of insight and discipline. And I tend to think that some of the modern day Arahants (Claimed) belonged to that category.
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby cooran » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:20 am

Hello HeavenStorm,

Even Arahants who only attain the first Jhana, was said in suttas to be very much powerless, unable to recall past lives and was not different from ordinary person outwardly except in terms of insight and discipline
Could you link us to some of these suttas please?

metta
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby Heavenstorm » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:57 am

Chris wrote:Hello HeavenStorm,

Even Arahants who only attain the first Jhana, was said in suttas to be very much powerless, unable to recall past lives and was not different from ordinary person outwardly except in terms of insight and discipline
Could you link us to some of these suttas please?

metta
Chris



I think the following is best indication of what I said:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el407.html

In the Gopakamoggallaana Sutta a brahman asks the Venerable Ananda whether there is a single monk who iscompletely endowed with all the qualities with which the Buddha is endowed................

...............Among arahants too there are differences in attainment. In one place the Buddha states that in a group of 500 monks sixty are arahants with the six higher knowledges (cha.labhi~n~naa), sixty are arahants with the three clear knowledges (tevijjaa), another sixty are arahants liberated from both parts (ubhatobhaagavimutta), while the rest are arahants liberated by wisdom (pa~n~naavimutta) .7

(1) The highest qualifications among arahants are the six higher knowledges (cha.labhi~n~naa) and the four analytical knowledges (catupa.tisambhidaa) .8 The former comprise psychic powers, the divine ear, thought reading, retrocognition (the ability to recall one's former births), clairvoyance (the ability to see beings dying and being reborn according to their kamma), and the knowledge of the destruction of defilements. The four analytical knowledges comprise insight into the meaning of words (attha), truth (dhamma), use of language (nirutti), and originality of ideas (pa.tibhaana) . They seem to pivot round the ability to teach the Dhamma through the medium of verbal communication with appealing and meaningful ways of presentation.

(2) Arahants of lesser attainments have only three higher knowledges: retrocognition, clairvoyance, and the knowledge of the destruction of defilements.

(3) Still other arahants attain emancipation from both parts (ubhatobhaagavimutti). They have gained emancipation from the body (ruupakaaya) 9 by the physical experience and complete mastery of eight "deliverances" (vimokkhas) or supernormal states of consciousness, and emancipation from the mind (naamakaaya)10 through the destruction of defilements.

(4) Arahants who are released through wisdom have only the knowledge of the destruction of defilements. As a common denominator all arahants have pa~n~naavimutti, also called akuppaa cetovimutti, "imperturbable mental freedom."

................


Then from the Susima Sutta:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the squirrels' sanctuary.................

.............Now at that time a large number of monks had declared final gnosis in the Blessed One's presence: "We discern that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world.'"

Ven. Susima heard that "A large number of monks, it seems, have declared final gnosis in the Blessed One's presence: 'We discern that "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world."'" Then Ven. Susima went to those monks and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with them. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to them, "Is it true, as they say, that you have declared final gnosis in the Blessed One's presence: 'We discern that "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world"'?"

"Yes, friend."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you wield manifold supranormal powers? Having been one you become many; having been many you become one? You appear? You vanish? You go unimpeded through walls, ramparts, & mountains as if through space? You dive in & out of the earth as if it were water? You walk on water without sinking as if it were dry land? Sitting crosslegged you fly through the air like a winged bird? With your hand you touch and stroke even the sun & moon, so mighty & powerful? You exercise influence with your body even as far as the Brahma worlds?"

"No, friend."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you hear — by means of the divine ear-element, purified & surpassing the human — both kinds of sounds: divine & human, whether near or far?"

"No, friend."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you know the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with your own awareness? Do you discern a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion; a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion; a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion; a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind; an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an unenlarged mind as an unenlarged mind;an excelled mind [one that is not on the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind; a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind; a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind?"

"No, friend."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you recollect your manifold past lives (lit: previous homes), i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand births, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction & expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here'?"

"No, friend."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you see — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away and re-appearing, and do you discern how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world'?"

"No, friend."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you dwell touching with your body the peaceful emancipations, the formless states beyond form [the formless jhanas]?"

"No, friend."

"So just now, friends, didn't you make that declaration without having attained any of these Dhammas?"

"We're released through discernment, friend Susima."


"I don't understand the detailed meaning of your brief statement. It would be good if you would speak in such a way that I would understand its detailed meaning."

"Whether or not you understand, friend Susima, we are still released through discernment."

So Ven. Susima got up from his seat and went to the Blessed One. On arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he told the Blessed One the entire conversation he had had with those monks.

[The Blessed One said:] "First, Susima, there is the knowledge of the regularity of the Dhamma [dependent co-arising], after which there is the knowledge of Unbinding."

"I don't understand the detailed meaning of the Blessed One's brief statement. It would be good if the Blessed One would speak in such a way that I would understand its detailed meaning."

"Whether or not you understand, Susima, it is still the case that first there is the knowledge of the regularity of the Dhamma, after which there is the knowledge of Unbinding.

"What do you think, Susima: Is form [any physical phenomenon] constant or inconstant?" — "Inconstant, lord." — "And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?" — "Stressful, lord." — "And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"...Is feeling constant or inconstant?" — "Inconstant, lord."...

"...Is perception constant or inconstant?" — "Inconstant, lord."...

"...Are fabrications constant or inconstant?" — "Inconstant, lord."...

"What do you think, Susima: Is consciousness constant or inconstant?" — "Inconstant, lord." — "And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?" — "Stressful, lord." — "And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"Thus, Susima, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Any feeling whatsoever...

"Any perception whatsoever...

"Any fabrications whatsoever...

"Any consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

"Susima, do you see that from birth as a requisite condition there is aging & death?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from becoming as a requisite condition there is birth?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition there is becoming?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from craving as a requisite condition there is clinging/sustenance?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from feeling as a requisite condition there is craving?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from contact as a requisite condition there is feeling?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the six sense media as a requisite condition there is contact?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from name-&-form as a requisite condition there are the six sense media?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from consciousness as a requisite condition there is name-&-form?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from fabrications as a requisite condition there is consciousness?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from ignorance as a requisite condition there are fabrications?"

"Yes, lord."

"Now, Susima, do you see that from the cessation of birth there is the cessation of aging & death?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of becoming there is the cessation of birth?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of clinging/sustenance there is the cessation of becoming?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of craving there is the cessation of clinging/sustenance?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of feeling there is the cessation of craving?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of contact there is the cessation of feeling?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of the six sense media there is the cessation of contact?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of name-&-form there is the cessation of the six sense media?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of consciousness there is the cessation of name-&-form?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of fabrications there is the cessation of consciousness?"

"Yes, lord."

"Do you see that from the cessation of ignorance there is the cessation of fabrications?"

"Yes, lord."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, Susima, do you wield manifold supranormal powers? Having been one you become many; having been many you become one? You appear? You vanish? You go unimpeded through walls, ramparts, & mountains as if through space? You dive in & out of the earth as if it were water? You walk on water without sinking as if it were dry land? Sitting crosslegged you fly through the air like a winged bird? With your hand you touch and stroke even the sun & moon, so mighty & powerful? You exercise influence with your body even as far as the Brahma worlds?"

"No, lord."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, Susima, do you hear — by means of the divine ear-element, purified & surpassing the human — both kinds of sounds: divine & human, whether near or far?"

"No, lord."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, Susima, do you know the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with your own awareness? Do you discern a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion; a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion; a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion; a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind; an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an unenlarged mind as an unenlarged mind;an excelled mind [one that is not on the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind; a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind; a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind?"

"No, lord."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, Susima, do you recollect your manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand births, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction & expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here'?"

"No, lord."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, Susima, do you see — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away and re-appearing, and do you discern how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world'?"

"No, lord."

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, Susima, do you dwell touching with your body the peaceful emancipations, the formless states beyond form?"

"No, lord."


"So just now, Susima, didn't you make that declaration without having attained any of these Dhammas?"

Then, throwing himself down with his head at the Blessed One's feet, Ven. Susima said to the Blessed One, "A transgression has overcome me, lord, in that I was so foolish, so muddle-headed, & so unskilled as to go forth as a thief of the Dhamma in this well-taught Dhamma & Discipline! May the Blessed One please accept this confession of my transgression as such, so that I may restrain myself in the future."

"Yes, Susima, a transgression overcame you in that you were so foolish, so muddle-headed, & so unskilled as to go forth as a thief of the Dhamma in this well-taught Dhamma & Discipline. Suppose, Susima, that a robber, an evil-doer, having been caught, were shown to a king: 'This, your majesty, is a robber, an evil-doer. Decree what punishment you want for him.' And so the king would say, 'Go and — having bound him with a stout rope with his arms pinned tightly against his back, having shaved him bald — march him to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads; evict him out the south gate of the city and there, to the south of the city, cut off his head.' Then the king's men, having bound the man with a stout rope with his arms pinned tightly against his back, would march him to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads, evict him out the south gate of the city and there, to the south of the city, cut off his head. What do you think, Susima? Wouldn't that man, for that reason, experience pain & distress?"

"Yes, lord."

"However much the pain & distress that man would experience for that reason, Susima, the Going Forth of a thief of the Dhamma in this well-taught Dhamma & Discipline is still more painful in its result, more bitter in its result, in that it leads even to the lower realms. But because you see your transgression as such and make amends in accordance with the Dhamma, we accept your confession. For, Susima, it is a cause of growth in the Dhamma & Discipline of the noble ones when, seeing a transgression as such, one makes amends in accordance with the Dhamma and exercises restraint in the future."
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Re: Remembering Past Lives

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jan 27, 2009 7:06 am

this may be off topic since this is the clasical forum BUT

ajahn brahm says you can do this just by thinking back to your earliest memories after you get out of deep meditation, im not sure what jhana you'd have to master but yeah, thats what i heard him say in an mp3 once... i guess it's cause your mind is so calm and clear you can remember back further and further the more you meditate.

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