Past lives

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Past lives

Postby Justin » Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:11 pm

I'm hoping someone can help me out, given that I still have much to learn. Does anyone know where in the Tipitaka the Buddha addresses the question of why humans can't remember their past lives, or absent of a specific scriptural reference, what the Buddha's explanation was?

With metta,
Justin

:namaste:
Cultivate generosity, the life of peace,
and a mind of boundless love.

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Re: Past lives

Postby bodom » Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:15 pm

Justin wrote:I'm hoping someone can help me out, given that I still have much to learn. Does anyone know where in the Tipitaka the Buddha addresses the question of why humans can't remember their past lives, or absent of a specific scriptural reference, what the Buddha's explanation was?

With metta,
Justin

:namaste:


Can you remember what you had for dinner, say monday night last week? No? It was only last week an already you have forgotten it. How could you possibly expect to remember lives from decades, centuries, aeons ago? Im not sure about the scriptural references though. Hope someone can help.

:namaste:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Past lives

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Feb 02, 2009 5:08 pm

Hi Justin,

Justin wrote:I'm hoping someone can help me out, given that I still have much to learn. Does anyone know where in the Tipitaka the Buddha addresses the question of why humans can't remember their past lives,


He doesn't, but the Pali commentators blame it on the prolonged dullness of mind during gestation. Beings of immediate arising (opapatika) such as devas and pretas all have a native ability to recall their former life, whereas most humans and animals do not.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Past lives

Postby Heavenstorm » Mon Feb 02, 2009 5:21 pm

Forget about past lives, many of us can't even remember our childhood in details.
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Re: Past lives

Postby Placid-pool » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:52 pm

There was a fad back in the 80s or 90s ... (there you go, memory of this life gone already) where people got hypnotised to remember their past lives .... I thought then and I still think it .. rubbish.

If we could remember our past lives there would be no point in working through this life - we would know where we had gone wrong and concentrate only on the mistakes from the past one ... not on making our whole life better and eliminating all unwholesome parts of it.

The point is that the shadow of previous lives is there - we can't see it but it influences our lives and we may understand better the other person's point of view. No sorry I can't quote scripture but it seems obvious to me - and have you ever noticed that those interviews with people who "remember" previous lives is always something connected with a subject that they find fascinating in this life? Really? How coincidental.
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Re: Past lives

Postby Annapurna » Mon Feb 02, 2009 9:40 pm

I think fascination with a certain epoch or land could be an indicator for karma from that time, ripening.
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Re: Past lives

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:04 pm

i feel past lives, if that makes sense.. i dont remember them like i remember going to school, or a childhood memory. its a feeling, like a weird emotion. i also feel or know bad things in advance too, like i knew before hand that someone was going to shoot my brother, so i went to stay with him and i ended up saving him. i dont know what to atribute it to. maybe i just notice patterns and my mind puts them together subconiously? i try not to think too much about it.
i have no control over it, i cant "tell you your fortune" or any of that sorta mumbo jumbo, it works when it wants to how it wants to. mostly its in the forms of nightmares or sickness though. so it kinda sucks
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Past lives

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:17 pm

"Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?"

"It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole."

"It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. "

Samyutta Nikaya 56.48

The blind sea turtle is a good simile showing how hard it is to obtain human rebirth. I heard once that a goldfish only has a memory of about 3 seconds. I imagine most other animals don't have that long of a memory either (except for elephants). If we have done all / most of our past lives as animals, we cannot expect to remember them much or at all.
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Re: Past lives

Postby Placid-pool » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:23 pm

Yes, I suppose if someone has a fascination with a particular country or period of history with which they don't appear to have any connection, then it may be some shadow of a past life coming up ....... good point :reading:
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Re: Past lives

Postby genkaku » Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:34 am

I have never quite gotten in synch with 'past lives.' I'm not for or against it, but all I can think is, even if you could remember such a thing with accuracy and assurance, still you would only have this life, this moment, in which to find any usefulness in it. Mind you, I like a good tale as well as the next person -- even tales that are true -- but I can't get my head around what usefulness it might have.

No disrespect intended here. Just my view.
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Re: Past lives

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Feb 03, 2009 1:27 am

Ever notice that all cases of past life memory (the previous one) is always as a human? I have a theory that the experiences of an animal or hell being or heavenly being are so very different from our present experiences that even if we had a memory from one of these realms we wouldn't recognize it as such; it would just an incoherent thought. This could explain why only some kids remember their previous life and not all kids - only those who's previous life was human would even stand a chance of remembering. Just a theory.
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Re: Past lives

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Feb 03, 2009 1:57 am

Peter wrote:Ever notice that all cases of past life memory (the previous one) is always as a human?

:shrug: :jumping:

Exactly, especially among the :quote: New Agers :quote: Ever notice how Shirley McLaine and others have stated that they were this or that emperor or wife or mistress of this or that famous person or the sister of Mary, etc.

How come no one has a past life regression for being a cockroach, worm, etc.? That is why I like to quote the blind sea turtle simile.
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Re: Past lives

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Feb 03, 2009 2:21 am

Hi David,

TheDhamma wrote:How come no one has a past life regression for being a cockroach, worm, etc.?


I have encountered one person who claims to have done so. On the very first Buddhist e-mail list that I joined (the now defunct Buddhist-L), one of our more colourful characters was an American rabbi who belonged to some Jewish group which subscribed to reincarnation. The rabbi was also the founder of an organization whose mission was to track down Jewish holocaust victims who had reincarnated as American Christians, and then convert them back to Judaism.

In his posts the rabbi would speak quite unabashedly about his time as an animal of one sort or another, being particularly fond of recounting his former lives as a polar bear and a rabbit.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Past lives

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Feb 03, 2009 3:07 am

Interesting. Is that defunct Buddhist-L a precursor to Buddha-L ?

As a JuBu, I always knew that once you are raised Jewish, no matter what you do or what you convert to, people still consider you as Jewish, but now there are rabbis finding you even in your next life! :o
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Re: Past lives

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Feb 03, 2009 3:51 am

Hi David,

TheDhamma wrote:Interesting. Is that defunct Buddhist-L a precursor to Buddha-L ?


Actually they were both started at about the same time, but eventually were amalgamated.

As a JuBu, I always knew that once you are raised Jewish, no matter what you do or what you convert to, people still consider you as Jewish, but now there are rabbis finding you even in your next life! :o


Yes, they use kabbalistic means to track you down. You can run but you can't hide. :smile:

Though the project's scope wasn't limited to occult detective work; in fact much of it consisted in counselling Christians who for some reason felt themselves to be Jews.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Past lives

Postby pink_trike » Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:39 am

I've heard lots of people talk intimately about their "past lives" (prolly because I've lived in California for more than 3 decades, and because of my work as a psychotherapist)...but not once have I ever heard talk of anyone previously being an insurance salesman living in a small town in Mississippi in the 1940s, a grub-hunter in Angola in the 60s, a sex slave in Cambodia in the 70s, a 12 hour a day factory worker in Romania in the 80s, or a housewife in Amsterdam in the 90s in their previous lives, etc...or anything remotely similar...no ordinary people "past lives" - let alone animal, reptile, plant, or mineral lives. Most people's "past lives" stories sadly always seem to resemble characters in children's books or Hollywood epic movies...Disney-esque characters, never ordinary people. Never people who lived bitter, hard, short lives of hunger, hard work, violence, disease, and early death (surely the greater majority of all "past human lives" on this planet). I'm not convinced that "past life" recall is anything other than overactive, confused, narcissistic, compensational imagination that is delusionally mistaken as "memory".

And, on the other hand...much of what I have experienced on the path of attempted awakening in this life has profoundly seemed like _remembering_ something that I once knew, but forgot. This life has always seemed like waking from amnesia. When I experience dharma teachings, and when I encounter profound wisdom from other pre-modern sources, it is as if I am remembering once familiar knowledge/experience rather than encountering new info. This recognition process has been an integral sorting mechanism as I've drifted though the myriad oceans of so-called "spiritual" crap available to us here on the West Coast of the failing empire. If it doesn't feel like remembering, I don't pay much attention to it. But, this doesn't necessarily point at "re-birth" either...it could just be another brain/body-produced memory/sensation (humans are crazy...what's to stop our minds from manufacturing "past life" memories? Or sensations of pre-experience?)...or it might just be a simple connecting with the "noosphere"...the collective consciousness - if this is the case, we could be accessing any human's noosphere-stored consciousness and mistaking it as our own experience.

So, re: rebirth...I'm comfortable with "I don't know and I don't care". That's enough for me. I can't think of any reason to adopt some sort of "belief" about it. Heck, the whole "rebirth" thing might just be a pernicious, enduring brain meme that we'd do good to rise above. I do my best to prepare the ground for conscious re-momenting. It seems to me, in my ignorance, that preparing the ground for the next moment or the next life involves exactly the same process. Preparing for the next moment is the best I can do...it's a full time job.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Past lives

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:55 am

Greetings pink_trike,

pink_trike wrote:I do my best to prepare the ground for conscious re-momenting. It seems to me, in my ignorance, that preparing the ground for the next moment or the next life involves exactly the same process. Preparing for the next moment is the best I can do...it's a full time job.

Very well said.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Past lives

Postby Annapurna » Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:48 am

TheDhamma wrote:"Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?"

"It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole."

"It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. "

Samyutta Nikaya 56.48

The blind sea turtle is a good simile showing how hard it is to obtain human rebirth. I heard once that a goldfish only has a memory of about 3 seconds. I imagine most other animals don't have that long of a memory either (except for elephants). If we have done all / most of our past lives as animals, we cannot expect to remember them much or at all.


If you ever owned a cat, and took her to a vet.... and she hated it... and you want to take her there again... you will find out that a cat remembers things throughout her whole life...

I had to go to another vet with her.

This one she liked to "visit". :roll:
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Re: Past lives

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:19 pm

Dhammanando wrote:much of it consisted in counselling Christians who for some reason felt themselves to be Jews.

Need some pun on "coming out of the closet"...
...
Coming out of the sukkah?
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Re: Past lives

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:20 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
pink_trike wrote:I do my best to prepare the ground for conscious re-momenting. It seems to me, in my ignorance, that preparing the ground for the next moment or the next life involves exactly the same process. Preparing for the next moment is the best I can do...it's a full time job.

Very well said.

I agree.
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